Wednesday, March 16, 2005


'Explosion risk' wreck is probed


March 15, 2005

The wreck of the USS Richard Montgomery
is visible 2km off Kent.

An assessment of the risks posed by a shipwreck full of explosives 2km off the Kent coast has been commissioned by the government.

The American cargo ship USS Richard Montgomery was carrying 1,400 tonnes of explosives when it grounded and broke in two off Sheerness in 1944.

Experts have said if the wreck exploded it would cause a metre-high tidal wave.

Maritime Minister David Jamieson has revealed a study has been opened into the future management of the wreck.

'Risk to the public'
The wreck still lies in 15m of water off the mouth of the River Medway, with its masts visible above the surface.

Concern has mounted that further deterioration of the wreck, a collision with another vessel, or a terrorist attack could detonate the explosives.

Experts have warned such an event would have devastating consequences for the local coastal population.

In August 2004 a report in the New Scientist magazine said if the ship exploded it would be one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts ever and would devastate the port of Sheerness.

And in January of this year marine consultants BMT Reliability said, in a report handed to MPs, that an explosion could happen within 10 years if no action was taken, causing "a risk to the public" and £1bn worth of damage.

And as long ago as 1970, government tests on the site showed a blast would hurl a 1,000ft wide column of water, mud, metal and munitions almost 10,000ft into the air.

Mr Jamieson said: "I have recently commissioned work to examine the current risks poised by the ordnance that remains on board.

"The results of this study will inform consideration of possible future management options of the wreck."

Wreck 'may cause mass explosion' 15 Jan 05 Kent
UK's undersea 'ticking timebombs' 26 Nov 04 Science/Nature
Wrecked warship is a 'timebomb' 19 Aug 04 Kent


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