Published: 16:19, 08 July 2020
| Updated: 16:25, 08 July 2020
Marine engineers have until the end of November to place a bid to remove the masts of Sheppey bomb ship the Richard Montgomery.
The Government has now issued a formal request for tenders to work on the wreck of the Second World War American munitions vessel which sank off Sheerness on August 20, 1944.
Advance information had already been issued in January.
Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson said: "I have been informed that the Government is moving to the next stage which is to tender for the work.
"The estimated value is a somewhat fluid figure from £100,000 to £4 million. There is no longer any mention of £5 million."
Despite the ship still being packed with explosives there is no reference to 'danger money' although Mr Henderson says Transport Minister Kelly Tolhurst (MP for Rochester and Strood) agrees there is "a risk" to the wreck from its rusting masts which is why the work is needed.
In a letter to the MP she says: "I appreciate and share the concern you raise for constituents living nearby. It is for this reason that the procurement is being undertaken.
"The Department is seeking to manage the risk by reducing the height and weight of the masts, minimising the potential effect if the bulkhead were to collapse in the future.
"I do understand, though, that any work of this nature carries risk. However, this decision has been taken based on the best available evidence.
"My officials are working closely with their counterparts in the Ministry of Defence to address and mitigate as much of the risk as possible. The mast removal will be led by the Ministry of Defence with their experts present during the works."
She added: "I hope this reassures you that we continue to take the safety of your constituents with the utmost seriousness and that the management of the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery remains of great importance to this Government."
A survey in 2013 revealed that the bulkhead where the masts join the deck was in poor state because of corrosion. The wind and tides were adding "additional leverage" where the masts are secured.
Although no further deterioration has been noted the Transport Minister warned that "deterioration can accelerate and decelerate over time."
The Government says the contract could be suitable for small or medium firms.
For details visit the website here.