Submerged munitions, dumped in large quantities in the seas after World Wars I and II, constitute a serious safety risk in open water and for everyone living and working along the coast. Apart from the danger of potential explosions related to accidental encounters, these munitions represent an environmental risk as chemicals may seep from corroded shells. This is even more important when considering sites containing chemical weapons.
Dumped munitions negatively affect not only commercial interests (e.g. fishing, aquaculture, dredging, pipeline and cable laying, windfarm construction) but also safety in harbours, shipping routes and tourism.
Munition detection prior to the development of offshore projects is a cost driver in blue growth activities in some areas. The difficulty to remotely discriminate between munitions and the large amount of other scrap metal on the sea floor means that extensive resources are needed to clearly identify and process potential threats.
To tackle those issues, BASTA project aims at increasing the accuracy of munition detection by improving the methods for data acquisition, processing and interpretation.
The project’s main objectives are:
- Advancing data acquisition
- Implementing a sustainable use of surveys and archived data from World Wars I and II
- Engaging stakeholders to formalise recommendations for industry and governments
As regards data acquisition, BASTA project aims at combining ship-based and automated underwater vehicles (AUV)-based data in the most efficient way. So far, the project partners have improved the AUV-based magnetic and visual mapping, conducted multibeam, sub-bottom profiling and towed magnetic surveys in numerous areas. The areas of Kolberger Heide and Lübeck bay were comprehensively mapped. For the first time, it is possible to generate an inventory of buried and exposed munitions at these dump sites and compare it with historic documents of the dumping activities.
The project developed artificial intelligence (AI) analysis tools to detect munition objects in marine survey data. The sustainable use of the latter has improved thanks to the development of a multi-sensor database and a cloud-based infrastructure to test the calculation of data quality factors and the application of AI. In order to make the AI accessible to everyone, BASTA project developed a plug-in for QGIS (Geographic Information System) that can be used to search for munition objects in any data set with similar parameters.
BASTA’s stakeholder involvement process supports the building of a community, jointly working towards solving the issue of munitions in the sea and discussing about new methods and workflows. With the support of this community, a set of data quality factors has already been defined to help standardise the surveys. Overall, the project contributes to the creation of public awareness regarding the issue of munitions in European seas and the subject is gaining increased political interest and media coverage.
To know more about this interesting project, visit its website and watch the Euronews episode “The ticking environmental time bombs lying on Europe's seafloor’’, featuring BASTA together with ExPloTect, another EMFF-funded project in the same field.
For additional information and presentations on the subject check out also the Kiel Munition Week event's website.