Republication from

Site of the North Sea coastline.


Millions of tons of old ammunition and poison gas grenades lie at the bottom of the North and Baltic Seas – dangerous relics of the two world wars. After all, the old munitions rust and release their toxic ingredients. Removal is dangerous, complex and expensive. This is why Fraunhofer researchers are working with salvage companies to develop a robotic system that enables semi-automatic disposal.

According to current projections, around 1.6 million tons of conventional and 220,000 tons of chemical weapons are stored at the bottom of the North and Baltic Seas and have been rotting away for decades – an enormous danger potential for flora and fauna as well as for salvage personnel. These explosive legacies of war are increasingly becoming a problem. Because construction sites at sea are increasing, new shipping lanes have to be excavated, pipelines built and submarine cables laid to connect wind parks to land. The arsenal of weapons detected by explosive ordnance clearance services ranges from pistol cartridges and bazookas to sea mines, explosive bombs, incendiary bombs, torpedoes and poison gas grenades.

Most of the explosive cargo was sunk into the sea at the end of the Second World War. On behalf of the Allies, fishermen were to dump the explosive ordnance in designated areas far out at sea. But obviously some tipped the cargo into the sea much earlier in order to save fuel. This is why there is a lot of ammunition outside the marked munitions areas. In addition, old mines, torpedoes and bombs are relocated by strong currents and bottom trolling.

Continue reading