Timebomb ticking in Thames Estuary could put Boris Island plans in jeopardy. SS Richard Montgomery.
Perhaps as part of the Standard’s crusade to push for a 3rd Heathrow runway, they have written about the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery, just off shipping lanes and close to the coast of the Isle of Grain in the Thames Estuary. This is full of 7,000 tonnes of wartime, unexploded, explosives (over 2,000 cases of cluster fragmentation bombs, nearly 600 500lb armour piercing bombs and at least 1,000 additional 1,000lb bombs). The ship would have to be removed or neutralised (how?) if a massive airport was to be built. The ship is nicknamed the £1 billion time bomb based of the amount of damage it could cause in the event of an explosion. It is estimated that a blast could trigger a tidal wave up to four feet high, destroying some coastal communities.
SS Richard Montgomery report
Here is a link to a recently published DfT report on the condition of the ship: –
30.5.2012 (Evening Standard)
A wreck in the Thames Estuary laden with 7,000 tons of explosives may have to be moved or “neutralised” if the Boris Island airport goes ahead, the Standard can reveal today.
Transport minister Mike Penning is ordering a fresh look at how to ensure SS Richard Montgomery does not pose a danger to the massive scheme for four runways which could be built on the edge of the Isle of Grain.
The ship is nicknamed the £1 billion timebomb based of the amount of damage it could cause in the event of an explosion. It is estimated that a blast could trigger a tidal wave up to four feet high, destroying some coastal communities.
The ship went down one-and-a-half miles from Sheerness and the Isle of Grain in 1944. It became grounded on a bank and broke in two because of the weight of the ammunition on board. Its masts are still visible.
The cargo includes more than 2,000 cases of cluster fragmentation bombs, nearly 600 500lb armour piercing bombs and at least 1,000 additional 1,000lb bombs.
It was one of 2,710 Liberty ships built by the US to help the Allied war effort. A review a decade ago examined whether the ammunition and detonators should be taken out of the split hull, the ship lifted or encased, though in the end it was decided to leave the wreck where it is.
Mr Penning told the Standard: “We will look again at the different options. Safety is paramount. If we are being more active on the river, I need to be confident that we are doing everything to make sure it’s as safe as possible.”
The Isle of Grain is earmarked for an airport under £50 billion plans put forward by Lord Foster. The plan has been championed by Boris Johnson.
Transport experts say if such a project went ahead, the ship could not be left there in its current state.
The latest survey of the vessel’s condition was published yesterday and showed little change since last year.
Its overall list and orientation were the same and a similar finding was made for the bulging in the hull plating. But the deck plating on one of the holds, number 2, had seen a very small drop in height, according to the sonar survey.
The risk of an explosion is “remote”. The wreck is cordoned off from shipping activities and access to it is prohibited under the Protection of Wrecks Act.