Shoreline impact of oil slick averted as World War II vessel on seabed identified as possible source

An oil slick appeared 12 nautical miles off the Kent coast. (stock photo)

The source of an oil slick 12 nautical miles off the east Kent coast is thought to be a World War II vessel on the seabed but further investigations will take place to confirm this.

The details were received in a briefing update to County Councillor Barry Lewis and fellow members this afternoon (July 29).

Efforts by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to contain the oil spill look to have prevented a large shoreline impact.

Two large vessels have been sent with high-speed containment, decanting and recovery systems to capture as much of the oil slick as possible – and have been in action since early this morning.

The latest model shows that, due to changing offshore winds, the oil slick is no longer estimated to make landfall – coming within five nautical miles of the coast near Dover this evening, before continuing to move away from shore.

An update to Cllr Lewis and KCC colleagues says: “The Coastguard is reporting an improving outlook. The sea clean-up action has been more positive than expected due to the resources deployed by the Coastguard and other partners.

“As time has moved on the oil spill has also weathered which is positive.”

It adds: “The source of the oil spill is now focused on a World War Two vessel on the seabed. However, further investigation is underway to confirm this is the source.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency say a potential source has been found on the seabed, but investigations by the Counter Pollution Team to confirm this are ongoing, while focus is being placed on the clean-up operation with multiple vessels in the area.

The MCA is continuing to monitor the situation through regular surveillance flights across the area and will update our ongoing response plan as new information comes in. As well as this, we are working with local partners to ensure a coordinated response.

An MCA spokesperson said:“We believe we have now identified the source of the oil observed on the water off the Kent coast over the past few days and are in process of putting together a robust containment plan to ensure the oil will not reach our shores or harm the local wildlife in any way.

“We are confident that we are not looking at a large spill but one that is manageable for our expert teams. We are really pleased by the collective efforts of all of our emergency response partners in Kent.”


  1. I really find this hard to believe, as I’m sure tests and surveillance would have been carried out many years ago.

    • The sea bed is littered with shipwrecks. Unless there is a hazardous cargo, or the location is a danger to navigation, it’s best left alone.
      Inevitably, fuel tanks and so on will rust away, and from time to time releases line this will happen.
      Fortunately the Agencies were on the ball, and there has been no disaster.

      • Exactly , the number of wrecks in the english channel is mind boggling, some german submarines used mercury to maintain stability, lots of odd stuff contained is slowly rusting damaged hulks. No chance of identifying and monitoring it all.

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