Lifeboat crew at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) station at Selsey were called upon to assist the Royal Navy in the disposal of unexploded ordnance that had been accidentally dredged from the bottom of the sea off Selsey Bill late last month.
On February 22, the Dutch-registered hopper dredger Melina had the ordnance on board approximately 16 kilometres southeast of Selsey Bill.
At 12:30 local time, the UK Coastguard requested the lifeboat crew to assist the Royal Navy explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team whilst they were dealing with the ordnance. The RNLI’s assistance would involve evacuating the crew of the dredger to the safety of the lifeboat.
The EOD arrived at 12:45 and were hoping to launch their rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) at the Selsey but this was not possible, so they went to Itchenor inside Chichester Harbour with the Selsey Coastguard team to launch.
At 13:30 the lifeboats launched to rendezvous with the EOD RHIB. However, shortly after launching, the visibility reduced dramatically so the Selsey inshore lifeboat (ILB) stayed close to station while the all-weather lifeboat (ALB) proceeded to Chichester harbour to meet and escort the navy RHIB, which had limited navigation.
The ALB and the EOD RHIB headed towards the dredger and when passing close to Selsey were joined by the ILB with all boats arriving on scene with the dredger at 16:00. The weather on scene was wind south east force one, sea state smooth in fog.
The EOD team boarded the vessel and were shown to where the ordnance was located. After clearing the sand that was hiding most of the object they investigated and eventually declared it nonexplosive.
The item was a 30-centimetre solid shot projectile. The officer-in-charge said it was a solid lump of lead that would be shot out of either a naval gun or World War II-era shore battery.
By this time, the fog had lifted and the ILB was released to return to station arriving back at 17:15. The EOD. made the object ready to lower into their RHIB to take ashore.
At 17:45, with darkness falling, the ALB and navy RHIB departed the dredger with the projectile bound for Itchenor. The quay at Itchenor was reached at 19:08 and the EOD prepared to recover their RHIB.
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