Survey of explosive-filled Liberty Ship

Wreck lies in Thames Estuary loaded with ordnance

Author: Pat
2nd February 2012
 

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has completed fresh surveys of an explosive-filled wreck in the Thames Estuary.

The MCA has just published the findings of its 2008 & 2009 surveys on the state of the SS Richard Montgomery. A Liberty Ship built in the USA in 1943, the Montgomery sailed from the USA to the UK with a cargo of munitions in August 1944.

Whilst anchored in the Thames Estuary, the ship’s anchor dragged and the vessel grounded on a bank to the north of the Medway Approach Channel. Shortly after grounding, the ship broke in two.

The cargo in the aft section of the ship was salvaged at the time. However, approximately 1,400 tons of explosive material remains in the forward section of the wreck.

The wreck lies across the tide close to the Medway Approach Channel and her masts are clearly visible above the water at all states of the tide. Diving or visiting the wreck in any way, shape or form is prohibited, although the munitions cargo is generally considered stable if left undisturbed.

However, new sonar scans of the SS Richard Montgomery from both 2008 and 2009 have shown greater levels of deterioration than have been seen in previous surveys.

The MCA believes that whilst the wreck does not appear to be in imminent danger of collapse, some sort of collapse or loss of munitions is more realistic in the medium term.

 
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