From Iceland — Explosives On Board Leaking WW2 Oil Tanker Wrecked In Seyðisfjörður

Explosives On Board Leaking WW2 Oil Tanker Wrecked In Seyðisfjörður

Published April 29, 2020

Poppy Askham
Photo by
John Rogers

An unknown quantity of explosives remain in El Grillo, a British oil tanker wrecked in Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland during World War Two. The Coast Guard is currently carrying out urgent work to attempt to stem an oil spill from the boat before summer.

As reported, the government recently approved an ISK 38 million grant to tackle the El Grillo oil spill. The hull, which has started to corrode away, will be sealed with concrete to prevent further leakage. Around fifteen tonnes of oil are thought to remain in the vessel. The work is an urgent priority for the Coast Guard as the volume of oil leaking from the ship is expected to increase when waters warm in summer.

Divers involved in the efforts to stem the oil spill removed 23 explosives used in anti-aircraft guns from the ship’s bridge last summer, Austurfrétt reports. Specialist explosives divers removed and neutralised the munitions, but it likely that a considerable number of explosives remain on board the ship. If detonated underwater they could cause a devastating new oil spill. The Coast Guard also fears the explosives may pose a threat to divers in the area. It is unclear how the likelihood of further explosives on the ship will affect current efforts to stem the oil spill.

The oil spill is having a severe detrimental impact on local wildlife. Aðalheiður Borgþórsdóttir, the local mayor, labelled Seyðisfjörður, “the country’s most polluted fjord”. Aðalheiður has caught media attention in the past by posting photos of oil-covered birds on social media in order to raise awareness about the issue.

British authorities were contacted last summer when the Coast Guard discovered the ship’s hull had started to corrode. However, due to the wreck’s unclear ownership of the wreck is unclear British officials have declined to become directly involved, instead offering the Icelandic Coast Guard advice.

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