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Ss Richard Montgomery

Volume 202: debated on Friday 24 January 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he is now able to make a statement on the recent survey on the SS Richard Montgomery.

A very thorough survey of this dangerous wreck was completed in September. The Medway ports authority has since completed a fresh hydrographic survey of the surrounding area.There is no evidence of any recent major changes to the wreck itself, although it continues to deteriorate and may be expected to begin to break up within a few years. No dangerous material was identified during the latest survey, although a substantial quantity of explosives must be presumed to remain on board. The surveys have shown that the silt around the site is mobile and extensive scouring under the wreck itself was observed. This can only accelerate its breaking up and the disappearance of what is now still visible above the water surface.I have decided in the light of the survey findings that the site of the wreck should remain a prohibited area under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 and that no attempt be made to clear it or its cargo. The wreck will continue to be monitored and another survey will be undertaken in due course.I have placed in the Library a paper summarising the results of these and previous surveys, and the steps taken over the years to quantify and contain the danger from explosives on this wreck.I am sending a copy to my hon. Friend.