RN Bomb Disposal Divers Safe Stricken Tanker off British Coast

Posted on October 15, 2017

Royal Navy bomb disposal divers save tanker packed with 1,000 tons of fuel after its anchor spears a test torpedo on the sea bed off the British coast

  • The tanker dropped its anchor in 15 metres of water off Portland Harbour 
  • When the anchor was raised, one of the crew noticed the torpedo was attached
  • The crew pumped the oil to the rear tanks on the vessel in case of an explosion
  • Navy divers removed the torpedo and destroyed it safely in a five hour operation

A navy underwater demolition team has destroyed a historic test torpedo which was speared by the anchor of a tanker carrying 1,000 tonnes of oil into Portland Harbour in Dorset.

As the vessel raised its anchor, a member of the crew spotted the badly corroded weapon attached to the fluke before stopping the operation.

Members of the Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit led by Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Campbell raced to the scene to assess the danger posed by the munition.

Most of the crew were evacuated from the vessel although six people including the Master remained on board in case they were needed to fight a fire.

Lt Cdr Campbell said: ‘The tanker was carrying approximately 1000 tonnes of fuel or oil.

‘The fuel cargo was pumped into the aftermost possible tanks to reduce the effects of any explosion, and fire hoses were charged and ready to deploy if needed.

‘We directed the ship to use her other anchor to steady her, before lowering the fouled anchor, and the torpedo, to several metres below the waterline.’

The Explosive Ordnance Device Specialists inspected the torpedo before releasing it and lowering it back into the water.

Lt Cdr Campbell continued: ‘EOD Operators are obliged to treat these items as ‘live’ and hazardous until it can be disproved otherwise.

‘The entire job was conducted in this way.

‘Working parts inside the torpedo could be seen from where the anchor fluke had ruptured it. The entire bomb disposal team were professional and got on with the job in hand.’

The operation took around seven hours.

He added: ‘They were thoroughly relieved to be separated from their unwelcome burden.’

According to the Royal Navy, the device, which was extremely corroded was British made and probably came from a test range at Portland which was in use until the 1980s.

Despite being a training munition without a warhead, it still presented a considerable danger as test torpedoes can contain highly flammable propellant.


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