UK Surveys Sunken Liberty Ship for Danger

Thursday, May 06, 2004
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency reported the result of the latest survey, in September 2003, of the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery, a war-time Liberty Ship which grounded and split in two off Sheerness in 1944. The survey was carried out under Ministry of Defence supervision by Falmouth Divers Ltd.

An ultra-sonic hull thickness survey of the bow section of the wreck (which is where the munitions remain) was undertaken. In addition, divers also made a visual examination of the main cracks in the hull and assessed the level of seabed support for the wreck.

The results were analysed and assessed in relation to previous hull surveys undertaken in 1981 and 1991. This analysis shows that there have been no significant changes in the hull thickness of the wreck in that time, and that seabed support continues to be good. The main crack was observed to be slightly larger, with the loss of some peripheral hull material, probably due to erosion from wave and tidal action. The report concludes that there are no grounds for increased alarm.

Expert opinion considers that the risk of a major explosion is remote, however, it is considered prudent to continue to monitor the condition of the wreck. Ministers have therefore decided that the site should remain a prohibited area under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, and that it will continue to be monitored.

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