World War II Munitions Dumps
A Rusting Timebomb in the BalticBy Axel Bojanowski
Tapani Stipa of the Finnish Institute of Maritime Research in Helsinki said he saw little threat to coastal regions of the Baltic because many toxic substances dissolved quickly in the water. But he stressed there wasn't much research into the problem.
Nehring said little was known about the location of the munitions and that much of it was dumped in chaotic circumstances 62 years ago. Crews paid to dispose of ordnance often ignored instructions to dump it in deep water because they wanted to return to port as quickly as possible to get the next load.
That left many bombs strewn widely over the seabed where sea currents and fishing nets spread them further.
Baltic states announced plans 13 years ago to conduct a large scale search for dangerous ordnance, but have not lived up to that pledge, said Irina Osokina.
US records could shed light on the location of dumps, said Manfred Boese, president of the International Institute of Ecological Safety for Baltic and Northern Seas which organized the Berlin conference. But the US will keep its records locked up for at least another 10 years, he said. "In the interest of safety we have to push for that information to be released," said Boese.
Given the amount of ordnance in the Baltic some experts say the planned laying of a 1,200 kilometer gas pipeline from Russia to German along the seabed poses dangers. The project's operator Nord Stream said last week that if munitions are found on the route of the pipeline it will be laid in another area or "other options" will be examined.
Environment expert Koch believes it's time to retrieve the biggest munitions sites from the sea to lessen the threat. The participants of the Berlin conference now plan to compile precise estimates of the threat present it to the summit of leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations taking place in the German Baltic resort of Heiligendamm in June.
Goverments need to start tackling the munitions problem, said Beer. The European Union's Green Book on Maritime Policy makes no mention of the munitions problem. The Europeans plan to agree cross-border rules, with which the EU plans to establish international rules on business, environmental protection, fishing and tourism by the end of 2007 -- areas for which crumbling ordnance lurking on the sea bed could pose a dangerous legacy.