Middle East

Iranian warship rolls over in port, could be out of action six months

By Brad Lendon, CNN

CNN  — 

One of Iran’s newest warships capsized in port over the weekend while undergoing repairs, an incident that could damage key warfighting systems and put the ship out of commission for up to half a year, a naval analyst said.

The 311-foot-long frigate Sahand was at a dock in the port of Bandar Abbas when it “lost its balance” after water leaked into its tanks, according to a report from the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

A photo from the semi-official Tasnim News Agency showed the warship, with a displacement of about 2,000 tons, resting on its left side in the Bandar Abbas port.

The ship, which Tasnim said entered service in December 2018, is one of the bigger vessels in Iran’s fleet, equipped with antiship cruise missiles and an electronic warfare system.

Naval analyst Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain, said it would take Iran four to six months to repair the ship once it can be refloated.

“Seawater severely damages electronics and gets into everything. So, all electronics will have to be removed and chemically cleaned to remove the salt,” he said.

It also affects mechanical parts, which could lead to engine failure if the parts are not thoroughly cleaned, he added.

“Salt encrustation destroys piston linings and turbine blades and interferes with combustion so if they take short cuts to get that ship back into service, they will pay a heavy price for doing so,” Schuster said.

Ships like the Sahand tend to have a lot of “top hamper,” weight from electronics and weapons above their center of gravity, Schuster said.

If lower fuel tanks are emptied, something prudent during a repair process, the higher up weight should have been removed to keep the ship in balance, he said.

“Otherwise, you risk capsizing the ship, particularly if there are high winds,” he said.

Capsizing, not sinking

Schuster said the photo released by Tasnim suggests the ship rolled over quickly, rather than sinking and settling on the relatively shallow harbor bottom at Bandar Abbas.

“Its motion (was) stopped only by the mast and stack encountering the harbor bottom,” he said.

Several people sustained minor injuries in the incident and were taken to a hospital, IRNA reported.

The Iranian news agency reports said the warship was “being returned to balance.”

That’s a process likely to take a week or more, according to Schuster, with cranes, floatation bladders and portable pumps needed.

The Sahand is the most recent ship to carry that name for the Iranian navy. The previous Sahand was sunk by the US Navy in 1988 during Operation Praying Mantis, which launched after a US frigate was crippled by an Iranian mine in the Persian Gulf.

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