Published: 09:29, 26 February 2013 |
Updated: 16:09, 09 January 2014
by Alan McGuinness
The bill for making the sunken warship SS Richard Montgomery safe could be as high as £30million, a bomb disposal expert has revealed.
Michael Fellows said dealing with the thousands of tonnes of explosives onboard the US vessel was perfectly feasible, but it would come at a cost.
The Montgomery sunk in the estuary off Sheerness in 1944 and has lain dormant on the sea bed ever since.
Because of its explosive cargo many fear it is an accident waiting to happen, and warn of dire consequences if the munitions were to blow up.
The doomsday claims include predictions the blast would be one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever, cause shockwaves that would blow out windows as far away as east London and cause Britain's first tsunami.
Not surprisingly, it is seen as one of the major obstacles to the construction of a Thames Estuary airport.
It is Mr Fellows' job to remove such obstacles, and he said dealing with the Montgomery was perfectly realistic. The 73-year-old, who has been involved in munitions disposal for more than 50 years, said: "It's not something new, it has been done. There are people that specialise in it."
The former Royal Navy diver set up Fellows International in the 1990s and since then the company has worked across the world, from Northern Ireland to Iraq.
During his time in the Navy he led the teams that de-ammunitioned three ships – HMS Drake, Natal and Vanguard.
He said the technology is there to tackle the Montgomery, but a "proper" survey needs to be carried out, one which examined whether the munitions were still a threat.
The Maritime Coastguard Agency checks the condition of the wreck each year, but Mr Fellows said this was meaningless without information on the potency of the bombs.
The "proper" survey advocated by Mr Fellows would take a couple of months and involve taking samples from the water and analysing the content using a remote operated vehicle the size of a shoe box.
This could cost a few million pounds, Mr Fellows said. As for the operation to make the ship safe, a remote operated vehicle could cut down into the ship, remove the weapons and take them to an ammunition dumping ground, Mr Fellows said.
A blast protection wall four or five metres above the high water mark would be built on the shore, “just in case”.
In all, the operation could take around 18 months.
Every morning at 10am we play you an hour of tunes from the 90s. We call it, #WeLoveThe90s.
Play 'Say It' with Garry and Laura on kmfm Breakfast and you could win £1,000!
Wake up to kmfm Breakfast with Garry and Laura - it's Kent's alarm call.
A guide for your future. For year 11 students in Kent and Medway. Click here for the e-edition.
Education, Training & Childcare is a special supplement published by KM Media Group four times a year. Click here for latest e-edition.
This is a brand new online resource covering every aspect of owning and improving a home in Kent and Medway.
Get the latest food and drink news, recipes from some of the nation's top chefs plus updates from Kent's vineyards and breweries.
Search in your local area to find your perfect partner in Kent, with FreshStart Dating! PLUS, register for free!.
Neil Miller, Hever Castle head gardener is new gardening blogger.
Buy pictures that you've seen in a KM newspaper, or send in a picture and we will place it on our photo sales website so that you can purchase a super, unique gift.