IOW Logo

MarTERA-AMMOTRACe - Marine AMMunitiOn dump exploration by surface- and underwater-based laser mass spectrometric TRACing technology

01.09.2021 - 31.08.2024
Project coordinated by:
GEOMAR - Helmholtz Zentrum für Ozeanforschung
Project manager (IOW):
Prof. em. Dr. Detlef Schulz-Bull
BMWi - Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie
Focus 4: Coastal seas and society

The heavy contamination of European waters with underwater munitions (UM) today represents a serious health and also economic risk. Many of the UMs result from dumping activities, especially after the world wars. To date, the exact coordinates of many such dumping areas are not known. Geophysical techniques such as sonar determination or magnetic measurements are commonly used for localization. However, these approaches focus only on structural or magnetic anomalies, which can be caused by other underwater structures besides UM, such as innocuous shipwrecks, sunken buoys, or rocks. In contrast, UM can also be localized by chemical detection of munition compounds (MCs) and chemical warfare agents (CWAs) in the water. These substances are increasingly released into the marine environment due to corrosion of the corresponding shells, which can also introduce them into the human food chain. However, chemical detection usually requires discrete sampling, as well as both temporally and financially intensive laboratory testing. In particular, the low concentrations of MCs and CWAs in water pose a challenge, usually requiring the use of elaborate sample preparation techniques. For this reason, the development of new techniques for rapid and effective localization of UMs and other ordnance is essential. Within the scope of the joint project "AMMOTRACe", technological solution strategies for fast and effective localization of dumped and unexploded ordnance in coastal marine systems are therefore developed, evaluated, and their applicability is demonstrated alongside traditional methods.

The goal of the AMMOTRACe project is the development of a combined analytical sensor system for the rapid and effective localization of dumping areas of hazardous wartime ordnance in the North and Baltic Seas. For this purpose, complete technology solutions for the direct determination of characteristic target compounds for both conventional and chemical warfare agents in near-shore waters will be realized within the joint project AMMOTRACe. The focus of the work is on the development of ship-borne and submersible in-situ sensor systems that combine the advantages of state-of-the-art technologies from the fields of online mass spectrometry and laser technology as well as the latest findings from ship-based and in-situ localization and observation of ordnance in marine systems. The performance of these newly developed ship-based and in-situ measurement techniques will be demonstrated in the project alongside traditional geophysical techniques for the localization of dumped ordnance. Within the IOW subproject, robust membrane inlets (MIs) for the rapid and direct detection of munitions compounds and chemical warfare agents in seawater using both ship-borne PIMS and IMS systems and submersible mini-PIMS and IMS systems will be developed, designed, tested, optimized, and integrated. This results in three major sub-goals to be worked on in the IOW sub-project: 1) development of membrane inlet systems, 2) system integration, and 3) demonstration of field suitability. To achieve these goals, advanced knowledge in analytical chemistry, handling of mass spectrometers and membrane inlet systems as well as experience in evaluation and interpretation of complex data is required.

AMMOTRACe brings together European companies and research organizations that develop analytical techniques and instrumentation for measuring environmental contaminants, construct hardware for underwater marine operations, assess the presence of historical munitions in the sea and sediments, and conduct clearance operations of dumped wartime contaminants.