Sea Technology

FEB 2018

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www.sea-technology.com February 2018 | ST 49 Sergii Kornieiev is the CEO and pres- ident of BaltRobot- ics. He has been the manager of many large, inno- vative international projects and has business administration experience in engineering companies. He has worked with IFS AB, Siemens, PETRONAS and many others. His scientific interests in- clude artificial intelligence, telecommu- nications and control systems. He has published more than 50 articles. C hemical weapons (CW) were produced en masse during World Wars I and II, but those made during WWII were never used in the European theatre. At the end of WWII, vast quan- tities of German chemical warfare agents (CWA) were stored in Wol- gast on the Baltic shore. From the end of the war until 1948, a total of 296,103 tons of chemical munitions and CWA were found on German territory. These were then dumped in the Baltic Sea and Skagerrak Strait on the orders of British, Russian and American occupation authorities. At least 170,000 tons of CW were dumped in the Skagerrak, mainly in the Norwegian trench, and in the eastern Skagerrak, off the Swedish coast. Entire ships were sunk with their cargo. In the Baltic Sea, at least 50,000 tons of CW were dumped, suppos- edly containing roughly 15,000 tons of CWA. In most cases, the CW were thrown overboard, either loose (bombs, shells) or in contain- ers, but some ships were also sunk. In most cases, the dumped materi- als contained explosives. In some cases, dumping of conventional munitions was carried out in the same locations as CW dumping. CHEMSEA (Chemical Munitions, Search and Assessment) was a flag- ship project of the Baltic Sea Region Strategy to study munitions dumped from WWII. The project was fi- nanced by the EU Baltic Sea Region Program 2007 to 2013 (Sea Tech- nology, January 2017). CHEMSEA was conducted from 2011 to 2014. After WWII, in Germany, there were supposedly 302,875 tons of chemical munitions (gross weight), translating into nearly 65,000 tons of pure toxic substances (CWA). From these, 35,000 tons were lo- cated in the U.S.S.R. zone of oc- cupation, and 30,000 tons were in the zones occupied by the U.S., U.K. and France. The 1945 Potsdam Conference required that all Ger- many's chemical munitions must be destroyed. The Allies planned to move the munitions to old vessels and dump them in depths of more than 1,000 m. Most of the chemi- cal munitions were mustard gas and lewisite. Mustard gas is an agent that can cause mutations and can remain stable on the seabed for de- cades after its metal encasings have corroded. In the Baltic Sea alone, the dumping covered a total of about 2,100 sq. km. Today, the level of chemical pollution in the area is ab- normally high. In addition, during the Cold War, munitions were also disposed of in an unofficial dumping site in the Gdansk Deep off the Polish coast. CW and CWA remnants contin- ue to be a threat, especially as use of the Baltic Sea floor continues to increase. Projects are on the rise, including submarine cables and offshore wind farms, a tunnel from Germany to Denmark, and several pipelines (e.g., Nord Stream, which stretches over 1,224 km on the Bal- tic bottom from Russia to Germa- ny). Some of these projects are near areas at risk of contamination from CWA degradation products. Also, trawling with bottom contact gear in areas surrounding CWA dumps is very intensive and comes with the risk of CW bycatch. Natural processes cannot be re- lied on to remedy the problem be- cause Baltic Sea water exchange occurs only once every 27 to 30 years. This means the munitions will remain a problem for decades. During the last 20 years, 115 in- cidents involving submerged CWA were reported. From 2003 to 2012, there were 44 reported incidents. Although the number of reported incidents has declined during the last decade, incidents are still oc- curring, with potentially serious outcomes as activity increases in the Baltic Sea. Compounding the problem is that there are no precise maps from the U.S., U.K., France and Rus- sia detailing where the CWs were dropped, what type and in what volume. CHEMSEA was a good start to address the problem, but this project is inadequate on its own. This is partly due to the €4.5 mil- lion funding for CHEMSEA, which is not enough to tackle 300,000 tons of dumped chemical muni- tions. Modern technology such as side scan sonars, magnetometers, ROVs and video cameras were de- ployed for CHEMSEA, but their de- ployment was very limited in scope. Renting a vessel with an ROV and crew can cost $100,000 a day. This means that eliminating the threat of dumped munitions for the Baltic Sea requires billions of euros. But finances shouldn't hobble progress. CHEMSEA should con- tinue. Ideally, the project should advance to localizing CW on the seafloor; testing approaches to de- stroy or encapsulate the objects; es- timating the extent and costs of the workscope; establishing mass med- ical investigations in the EU popula- tion for possible CWA impact; and creating steps for incidents to be registered with EU institutions and thoroughly investigated. The CHEMSEA project should not simply end. Dumped munitions continue to threaten the environ- ment and the health and safety of EU communities. ST soap box Investigation Must Continue into WWII Munitions Dumping—Sergii Kornieiev

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