About North Sea Wrecks

Image: “side-scan sonar launched by R/V Octans” from NHL Stenden Hogeschool

The North Sea Wrecks (NSW) project has provided necessary tools for planners, response organizations, economic actors, and other stakeholders to assess and propose solutions for risk mitigation regarding wrecks and munitions in the North Sea.

The North Sea is littered with thousands of ship and aircraft wrecks, million tons of conventional munitions and Chemical Warfare Agents. Additionally, bunker oil and hazardous cargo in sunken ships put a threat to human beings, the environment and blue growth operations, such as commercial and leisure navigation, tourism, mariculture, and offshore wind parks.

Scientists report a lack of information and knowledge about location of wrecks, munitions, lost materials, and sea dumped (chemical) waste and its composition. There is a lack of a co-operation and joint (mitigation) strategy, only fragmented action at national level exists. 

The NSW project was launched in 2018. After months of diving into nationally fragmented data sources on wrecks, cargos, and munitions, the organization of expedition campaigns to Belgian, Dutch, Danish, German and Norwegian waters, surveying 24 wrecks with the collection of several hundred samples in 6 wreck sites, the realization of ecotoxicological laboratory analysis of numerous sampling units (fish, mussels, water, and sediments), the consortium achieved the main goals of this project. The consortium developed a Data Repository and a Decision Support tool necessary for authorities, response organizations, economic actors, and other stakeholders to assess and propose solutions for risk mitigation regarding wrecks and munitions in the North Sea.

During the runtime of the project also defined methodologies for ensuring a coherent transnational cooperation for sampling, surveying, prioritizing interventions and made policy recommendations to make change happen. The partners have successfully worked with OSPAR delegations resulting in the revision of OSPAR EIHA Recommendation 2010/20 which now includes reference to the NSW project, promotion of information sharing on munitions, and risk assessment of munitions with the aim of developing a shared approach.

Cooperation on this sensitive topic is imperative and will become more evident over the upcoming years with munition shells rusting away. Findings have been shared with stakeholders (and partially with the wider public) including major institutes and government bodies.

Our competent and dedicated Advisory Board provided content input, and improvement critique and opened doors at international bodies.

NSW  provides tools necessary for planners, response organizations, economic actors and other stakeholders to assess and propose solutions for risk mitigation regarding wrecks and munitions in the North Sea.

The North Sea is littered with thousands of ship and aircraft wrecks, million tons of conventional munitions and Chemical Warfare Agents. Additionally, bunker oil and hazardous cargo in sunken ships put a threat to human beings, the environment and blue growth operations, such as commercial and leisure navigation, tourism, mariculture and offshore wind parks.

Scientists report a lack of information and knowledge about location of wrecks, munitions, lost materials and sea dumped (chemical) waste and its composition. There is a lack of a co-operation and joint (mitigation) strategy, only fragmented action at national level exist. 

The project provides a comprehensive methodology to assess, investigate and describe respective data sources, incl. mapping maritime heritage sites. Methods incl exploration of potential data and field sampling with research vessels. We deliver a powerful network, a Decision Support Database based on case studies, a risk assessment methodology and policy recommendations.

The consortium is formed of public authorities for maritime safety and planning, scientists and private companies dealing with wrecks and UXO (UneXploded Ordnance). Further public bodies constitute the Advisory Board.

Co-operation with existing projects avoids duplication of efforts.