UPDATED: Portsmouth International Port has been closed this morning (Wednesday) due to the discovery of an unexploded WWII bomb in the harbour – although cross-Solent services are currently unaffected by the closure.
The discovery is the third of its kind in the past 12 months as dredging works continue ahead of the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth next year.
Although Wightlink services are currently running to timetable, some delays are expected when the device is towed out of the harbour and into open waters for a controlled explosion.
In a statement the Royal Navy has said:
“Another German UXB has been found in Portsmouth harbour.
“A 500-metre cordon is in place around the device which is preventing cross-channel ferries from entering and leaving the ferry port.
“A plan is in place to tow the bomb out of the harbour where it will be destroyed in open waters by RN bomb disposal experts.
“The device was found by a dredging barge carrying out work in the harbour before the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth – the navy’s new 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier – into the naval base next spring.”
UPDATE @ 11:25 – Portsmouth Harbour has been temporarily reopened to allow arrival of incoming cross-Channel ferries, however delays remain for outgoing crossings.
Wightlink services remain unaffected at this time.
Mark Rodaway, Strategic Gold Commander for the UK Coastguard has said:
“This ordnance appears to have been left over from WWII and has remained for many years undisturbed on the seabed. We are treating it as potentially unstable and in order to keep to the public safe, we are working with Hampshire Police and the Queen’s Harbour Master to evacuate a large section of the Portsmouth harbour area – including Gunwharf Quays, Old Portsmouth and The Hot Walls”.
Due to the 300m cordon being put in place, other areas will need to be evacuated including Old Portsmouth, Portsmouth Harbour train station, Gosport ferry station and the Hot Walls areas.
Wightlink catamaran and car ferry services are being suspended whilst the bomb is towed out of the harbour and into open waters. Significant delays are expected throughout the afternoon.
UPDATE @ 14:32 – Wightlink say they are about to resume services, operating on a first come, first served shuttle basis. Delays of 2 hours are to be expected.
The first car ferry will sail from Portsmouth at 15:00 and from Fishbourne at 16:00. The first catamaran will sail from Portsmouth at 15:15 and from Ryde Pier Head at 15:47.
Meanwhile all cordons have been lifted in and around Portsmouth as the bomb has now been towed into open waters.
A controlled explosion is planned 1.5 miles off the east coast of the Isle of Wight later today or early tomorrow.
UPDATE @ 17:15 – The 500lb bomb has been successfully detonated off the coast of the Island, bringing the incident to a close.
Wightlink are said to be running a good service.