Published: 06:00, 12 September 2020
The latest survey into the state of Second World War bomb wreck the SS Richard Montgomery is to take place next week.
The American Liberty Ship went aground in the Thames Estuary – one mile off Sheerness – on August 20, 1944. It was loaded with explosives and still has more than 3,500 tons of bombs on board.
There is a constantly monitored exclusion zone around the ship.
Many believe the explosives, mainly phosphor bombs, are still unsafe and could lead to a tsunami which would flood Sheerness and Southend if they ever went off.
However, the scale of any explosion is open to debate and would depend on the explosives remaining viable.
Every year the Government’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency commissions a survey to check how dangerous the cargo is.
The most recent report, released in June last year, was from an inspection carried out between November 2017 and April 2018, and the reports for the 2018 and 2019 surveys are set to be released later this year.
This year’s work is scheduled for release in 2021.
Veteran wreck-watcher Tim Bell said: “My view is that the surveys are a little bit of a waste of time. They don’t look at the conditions of the explosives, they just monitor the wreck to see when it’s likely to collapse. They’re done once a year, but what if something happens between those monitoring periods?”
“In my view the authorities are not taking enough measures. Everything that could be done should be being done,” added. “There are 3,632 tons of ordnance which amounts to about 1,400 tons of TNT on the wreck. I hate to think what might happen.”
However, MP Gordon Henderson said although the surveys were done annually, it “doesn’t detract from the fact the wreck is being monitored 24/7.”