Royal Navy sailors in hospital after ‘wrong chemical’ added to ship’s water

<span>Photograph: The Royal Navy/PA</span>
Photograph: The Royal Navy/PA

Sailors are being treated in hospital after drinking “contaminated” water on their ship, the Royal Navy has said.

Frigate HMS Portland is believed to have diverted to Portsmouth naval base earlier on Friday after the discovery that the “wrong chemical” had entered the ship’s system to convert seawater to drinking water.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: “We can confirm that HMS Portland has returned to HMNB Portsmouth as a precautionary measure, following an issue with one of the ship’s fresh water systems. The health and safety of our personnel is of the utmost importance and we are taking a number of measures to safeguard the ship’s company whilst the issue is investigated.

“A small number of personnel were taken to hospital as a precaution and HMS Richmond has been stood up to cover any contingencies.”

Reports suggest they have been taken to Queen Alexandra hospital in Portsmouth.

The situation is understood to have been caused by “human error” and the person “owned up straight away”, said a Ministry of Defence source.

A source told the Telegraph: “The individual made a mistake and informed their chain of command. It’s really unfortunate, and their integrity should be acknowledged.”

“Fewer than 30” personnel have been affected by drinking the contaminated water, the source added.

The warships use fresh water reverse osmosis and it is understood on this occasion the wrong chemical was used.

However, it is unclear what chemical contaminated the water.

Scientists have already begun their investigation and have been on board the ship.

HMS Portland departed from its home port at Plymouth on Saturday, 7 January.

The contamination comes just weeks after the Royal Navy announced HMS Portland was tracking the Russian warship, Admiral Gorshkov, which has hypersonic missiles, through the North Sea.

At the time the Royal Navy stressed that escorting warships through “UK territorial waters and the adjacent sea areas is routine activity”.

The Type 23 frigate was launched in 1999 and underwent a refit in 2018, which included the installation of the Sea Ceptor surface-to-air missile system, 997 surveillance radar, 1084 navigational radar and the 2150 hull-mounted sonar, and returned to sea in March 2021.