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Bomb ship SS Richard Montgomery is cracking up says government report

By Rachel O'Donoghue

The government has released reports on the current and predicted state of the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery.

After a request from MP Gordon Henderson, the Department for Transport published results of exploration and monitoring missions carried out on the stricken vessel in 2013 and 2014.

The US Liberty Ship sank in 1944 while carrying 1,400 tons of munitions.

The SS Richard Montgomery off the coast of Sheerness Picture: Barry Crayford

Initial attempts to salvage its cargo abandoned when the boat split in two.

It is classified as a dangerous wreck under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.

The Port of London Authority carried out monitoring missions using multi-beam sonar and laser scanning technology, as well as sending down divers.

Some of the key findings were:

  • The hull thickness has reduced by 2.3mm since 2003, leaving an average 11mm of steel thickness remaining around the vessel
  • The condition of the steel is not uniform, with some areas in a very poor condition where divers perforated the hull while cleaning it
  • In some places the hull thickness was as thick as 16.8mm
  • Cracks observed during a 2003 dive continue to increase
  • The number-two hold section of hull is significantly “deformed, cracked and corroded”, and is “likely to be the first area of the wreck to suffer structural collapse”.

In its assessment of images taken to show the condition of the munitions on board the ship, the report states: “One picture shows debris strewn across the exposed deck and overhanging the edges.

“This tangle of wreckage was caused when the ship broke into two sections in 1944 and is likely to contain cargo material.”

An overview of the SS Richard Montgomery. Picture: Maggie Hill, Maritime and Coastguard Agency

However, it is noted that predicting when a structural collapse might occur, is outside the scope of the survey.

A report from last year into the wreck includes similar findings, but with few measurable differences from 2013.

The release of the surveys follow Mr Henderson submission of a written question earlier this month about whether terrorists could possibly target the bomb-laden boat.

The Tory previously said he was not personally worried about it being attacked, stating it would be very difficult to detonate the munitions on board.

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