Explosives Found Near Seattle Cruise Ship Pier

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Seattle has bragging rights as top port for Alaska cruises but it turns out there's a dirty little secret near the cruise terminal – explosives.

Investigators have found underwater World War II munitions including live rounds 30 to 40 feet from Pier 91, where the new Smith Cove Cruise Terminal is located, reports King 5 News.

During a routine security sweep in September, near the end of the high-traffic Alaska cruise season, a Port of Seattle Police Dive Team brought up training rounds and projectiles, and at least a few of these, according to a report obtained by the news outlet, had "live rounds containing h-e (high explosives) material."

Earlier, in similar sweeps in April and May, the divers had discovered empty shell casings.

It's believed the ammunition was there because Pier 91 served as a navy supply depot from WWII to 1971. Among ships coming and going from the pier were the USS Missouri and military transport vessels.

Jim Barton, a Virginia-based underwater munitions expert, tells the news outlet the finding of the munitions is not unusual, but "What is unexpected is that there is a cruise ship terminal built directly above where some of the munitions are."

Barton says cruise ship bow thrusters, which create a powerful wake when the ships maneuver to and from the pier, can move the munitions around.

"It's dangerous. It's explosives," Barton says. He adds any remaining ammunition "absolutely needs to come out, there's no excuse to leave it there. It's unwise to leave it there."

King 5 says records show five cruise ships, including two Holland America Line vessels visited the pier last month after the live munitions were brought to the surface.

The Port of Seattle says it was advised by the Coast Guard and Navy that Pier 91 was safe.

Barton isn't so sure. "Any kind of heat, shock and friction can cause these things to detonate," he says.

The Port Of Seattle, Navy, Army and Coast Guard are all now involved in mapping out a plan for a full survey and possible cleanup, the news outlet says.

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