Maltese-flagged oil/chemical tanker Skaw Provider hooked a historic test torpedo by its anchor and dragged it into Portland, UK.
The unexploded device had been pierced by the fluke of the anchor as it landed on the seabed, and had then been dragged up from around a 15-metre depth, the Royal Navy said.
Members of the Royal Navy’s Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 were dispatched to the scene where they immediately evacuated the majority of the crew. However, six, including the Master, stayed on board in readiness to fight any fires that could have broken out as a result.
“The tanker was carrying approximately 1000 tonnes of fuel or oil,” said Officer in Charge of the Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Campbell.
“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.”
“EOD Operators are obliged to treat these items as ‘live’ and hazardous until it can be disproved otherwise,” said Lt Cdr Campbell.
“Working parts inside the torpedo could be seen from where the anchor fluke had ruptured it.”
Once the torpedo was released the team then took it to a safe area, lowered it to the seabed and destroyed it.
The task took around seven hours and the ship was released at around 5pm the same day.
The small clean tanker of 4,3000 DWT was built in 2005 and is owned by Norway’s Brovigtank AS, based on VesselsValue’s data.
The torpedo was a British made device but was in an extremely corroded state. It is believed to have come from a test range that existed for Portland until the 1980s, and had so far remained undetected. While they vary in the type of hazard they represent test torpedo can contain highly flammable propellant, the navy added.