Potentially Polluting Wrecks
In an issues brief titled Marine Pollution from Sunken Vessels, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has estimated that around the world there are over 8,500 sunken vessels at risk of leaking over 6 billion gallons of oil. The majority of these wrecks date back to WWI and WWII and often contain harmful chemical pollutants and unexploded munitions, as well as heavy fuel oil. After more than 75 years of corrosion, which is exacerbated by climate change, leaks from sunken vessels are expected to reach their highest levels within ten years. Garnering more scientific data is essential to help us face this escalating issue.
More than 3,000 WWII wrecks are located in the South Pacific region, with around 1000 of these classed as potentially polluting wrecks (PPWs), posing a serious threat to both marine biodiversity and the coastal communities that depend on the Ocean for their food and livelihoods. The remediation of these PPWs is a crucial factor when protecting the Pacific blue economy and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, whilst also preserving Pacific underwater cultural heritage.
Potentially polluting wrecks are an example of a serious but neglected issue where Marinas Guardian is well positioned to fill a gap through its network of scientific institutions, tech experts and geographically relevant connections.
Credit: NOAA/NOS/Office of Coast Survey
Marinas Guardian is currently working with the Major Projects Foundation to identify, risk assess and ultimately remediate up to 60 of the most threatening sunken vessels in the Pacific Region. Scoping is already underway to assess the feasibility of conducting investigative work in two Pacific nations to help collect much needed data. We are also working to help develop a new International Standard to determine best practice and classify sunken vessels according to potential environmental, social and economic impacts as an aid to Governments to help guide action and prioritise resources.
To address this problem will require collective action from Governments, business and civil society. Marinas Guardian is well placed to help bring about the urgent action required and defuse this toxic timebomb.