Finn Longinotto, Security and Sustainability Program Senior Fellow, and Ryo Sato, Program Fellow, represented Global Green USA at the recent International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions held in Sopot, Poland, from April 13 to 15, 2011. Sopot is a seaside resort between Gdansk and Gdynia on the Baltic Sea, a short train ride from Gdansk (still Danzig in German) and a couple of hours away from the largest castle in the world by area, Malbork (Marienburg), built in Prussia by the Teutonic Knights.
This was the third International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (3IDUM), following those in Halifax, Canada, and Honolulu, Hawaii, and was held in Sopot in order to highlight the large concentrations of sea-dumped munitions, especially chemical weapons, in the adjacent Baltic Sea. The dialogue was chaired by Terrance P. ‘Terry’ Long, Founder, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IDUM, whom we have worked with extensively, and IDUM’s Co-Chair Dr. Andrzej Jagusiewicz, Chief Inspector of Environmental Protection in Poland.
Opening and closing keynote addresses were given by the Honorable Andrzej Kraszewski, Poland’s Minister of the Environment and an expert in environmental impact assessment of infrastructure ventures. The keynote speech on the principal day of activity was given by Ambassador Vaidotas Verba, Lithuanian Ambassador to The Netherlands and to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who, with assistance from Global Green USA, was responsible for putting forward and having passed the all-important UN resolution on sea-dumped chemical weapons in December 2010. This resolution calls on Member States and international organizations to cooperate more closely in assessing the environmental threats related to waste originating from chemical munitions dumped at sea.
This excellent Dialogue surpassed its high expectations, fully meeting the ambitious objectives outlined by the IDUM Chairman. The third IDUM was to serve as a premiere global forum for underwater munitions information exchange on the topics of Policy, Science, Technology and Economics of investing in our marine resources. It was a real global forum for underwater munitions exchange which addressed the topics of underwater technology and best practices; assessments of underwater sites and updates on progress and findings, with contributions from research from academia and policy experts on information directly relevant to underwater science and the future. The forum also covered the history of underwater munitions, which is important in exploring relationships among international stakeholders and building on the experiences and information shared in this forum.
The Dialogue featured diverse speakers, the abstracts of whose presentations appear on the website (under Dialogue Program, then Abstracts), including Counter Admiral Dr. Czeslaw Dyrcz of the Polish Naval Academy, Gunnar Moeller, Swedish Navy, Uwe Wichert, German Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Control, Dr Thomas Stock, DYNASAFE Germany, Geoffrey Carton, Calibre Systems Inc. in the US, Eric Heinen De Carlo, University of Hawaii, Michael Warminsky, UXB International Inc., Mathew Gapinski, US Army Corps of Engineers, Christopher Kennedy, OPCW in The Hague, J.C. King, US Army, Assistant for Munitions and Chemical Matters, and many others.
Global Green USA’s Finn Longinotto chaired a lively session with five distinguished panelists, whose principal points are incorporated in the bullet point categories that follow:
Environmental Risks of UXO/MEC Contaminants in Sediment Addressed by Laboratory Toxicity Testing,
Dr. Jon Doi, Ph.D., Aqua Survey, Inc., Flemington, NJ, USA
Functionality of Landmines Influenced by Salt Water,
Mr. Martin Jebens, Geologist, M.Sc., GIS-Manager Mine clearance, The Danish Coastal Authority
Advancing Underwater UXO Site Prioritization Using Threat Factor Analysis,
Mr. James Barton, Pres., Underwater Ordnance Recovery Inc., read statement
Destruction of Old Chemical Weapons – Technologies under Application,
Dr. Thomas Stock, DYNASAFE Germany GmbH
How safe is safe enough for Chemical Weapons Destruction System – an Analogy of a Nuclear Facility
Dr. Joseph Kiyoshi Asahina, Chief of Technology, Nuclear and CWD Division, Kobe Steel, Ltd.
A lot of material was covered in the three days of sessions, which generally followed the agenda on the IDUM website noted above. Rather than paraphrase every session, I have picked out those themes from each category which were recurrent throughout and which truly represent the areas that are most critical to focus on in the future. Top of the list is the agreement among all presenters that more study and research are necessary. This was true of every field – data collection, detection technology, toxicology and risk, recovery, etc. – as shown in the points below, under each category (some comments are attributed to the appropriate speakers in parenthesis).
However, every type of research costs money. For example, data collection can entail many hours of digging in old archives, in various countries and languages; weapon analysis entails heavy diving costs, especially in deeper waters. This all leads to considerable competition for funding, which has been extremely difficult to come by, especially for what we consider the first step, the assembly of consistent and coherent data. The final category covered is Outreach, where we come in again, both in raising awareness and encouraging the acceptance of affected communities, without which progress on the ultimate goal of ridding the seas of these dangers is severely hampered.
- Incomplete database - we can’t deal with it till we know what’s there
- Problems of accuracy of old records, systems and procedures (Uwe Wichert, Kiel, Germany)
- Need to assemble available documentation for decision-makers (Geoff Carton), US is advanced but more study needed
- Detection analysis advances but need more
- Recovery technology advances – further study necessary to tailor to situation – best practices sharing
- Comprehensive methodology not created yet, need to know decomposition rates, etc, more research necessary (Prof. Alexander Gorbovskiy, RF)
- Functionality of landmines buried for long time can change, become inactive, also from salt water seeping in. The unpredictable isn’t necessarily unstable – need chemical and physical analysis to reveal functionality (Martin Jebens, Danish Coastal Authority)
- Research needed in: environmental genotoxicity in fish, sea-bottom maps, etc.
- Inadvertent recovery is greatest risk. Concentration of Sunken Vessels (Geoff Carton)
- Moving of munitions by minesweeping, fishing action increases disruption, leakage
- “Harmless” souvenirs , Martha’s Vineyard, Hawaii
- Danger from dynamic ocean surf zone, shell fishing, vacationers, dive team safety
- Treat land sites and water differently, and within each water site (Tom Rancich, VR Habilis) – need study
- Detection of UXO necessary for economic development – wind parks, sea cables
- Unintended physical disturbance due to development is possible off Canada (Terry Long)
- Increasing technology and resource pressure leading to greater risks of munitions being hit by sea-bottom installations and activities, such as trawler fishing, cable works, wind farms
- ORCC – Are fish safe to eat? 2006 Ordnance Reef Study “UWMM did not pose an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment” (Dr. Eric de Carlo, University of Hawaii) – sensitivity to local communities
- Release of chemical agents proven in Baltic (Prof. Janina Barsiene, Vilnius University) – genotoxicity in fish in CW dumping areas and genetic damage, more research needed. Her study is the first wide-scale attempt to assess environmental genotoxocity in different fish and mussel species in 85 sites in N. Sea and Atlantic, and 117 sites in The Baltic
- “How Safe is Safe Enough?” (Dr. Joseph Asahina, Kobe Steel) transferring nuclear thinking to CWD
Prioritization and Technology:
- Tackle the most dangerous first, but which, and how?
- Site prioritization (Jim Barton) needs analysis of 4 factors: energetic event, physical damage to subsurface infrastructure, toxological impact, influence on economic development
- Must choose right technical approach for intrusive investigation/removal for each area (surf zones, etc)
- Munitions in ex-defense sites – Culebra (Mathew Gapinski, US Army Corps of Engrs) 75 federally listed threatened and endangered species
- Increase safety of underwater activities by defining areas where activity should be restricted, or very carefully carried out
- Needs analysis of weapons, functionality (e.g. some landmines not functioning now), seabed mapping, ranking of sites, most dangerous, shallowest, i.e. cheapest first
- Baltic, especially Bornholm is critical (richest fishing area also most at risk – bottom dwellers, such as flounder, mollusks)
Legal considerations and policy advocacy:
- Chemical Weapons Convention
- Need for all affected nations in Baltic to cooperate, Keenness of Poles and Lithuanians
- Multinational structures success, BOSB [??], Helsinki Commission
- 2010 UN Resolution, next steps
- Need for an NGO to explain both legal and technical aspects to wider public in layman terms, also to act as impartial arbiters between local government, State Parties and public, as well as political and economic/corporate decision-makers and stakeholders
- The 3 R’s (Geoff Carton) are the basis for public outreach: Recognize, Retreat, Report
- Outreach in Hawaii was important (Geoff Carton)
- Early involvement of all stakeholders is important – Martha’s Vineyard (Michael Warminsky, UXB International)
- Active NGO involvement, CHEMSEA (Chemical Munitions Search and Assess), Dr Jacek Beldowski, Institute of Oceanology PAS, Poland, with12 institutions, developing maps of sea bottom areas, need funding for Baltic alliance with governments
- Technicalities, e.g. Dispersion of passive tracers in the Baltic deep water, sediments screening in Ostrich Bay, WA, modeling results of concentrations of dissolved agents variance with analysis of upper sediments, etc, need to be interpreted to wider audiences
- Need for public understanding of problems of planning and execution of UXO removal (Tom Rancich, VR Habilis) NGOs role in stakeholder buy-in – Global Green USA bridges Arms Control and Environmental communities
- NGOs’ role in stakeholder buy-in – Global Green USA bridges Arms Control and Environmental communities
Finn Torgrimsen Longinotto, Senior Program Fellow, Security and Sustainability Program, Global Green USA