Wars and hasty post-war dumping over the last century have left our global waters littered with Explosive Ordnance (EO). Major contributors to this problem include:

  • Military air and naval bombardments
  • Naval mining operations
  • Military firing ranges
  • Dumping of munitions
  • Ship and aircraft wrecks

As maritime construction projects become more prominent and exploration of the underwater environment increases, these EO will be encountered more frequently. In some areas, encounters with underwater ordnance have become routine during:

  • Commercial fishing
  • Recreational beach-going
  • Maritime construction
  • Diving  

Until recently, national militaries have maintained almost exclusive expertise in clearing underwater EO. Today, however, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), commercial companies and teams of local authorities are also clearing these hazards.  

Although underwater survey technology developed by the military and the oil and gas industry over the last decade has produced capable systems for mapping the presence of EO, the training, experience and qualifications required to conduct these operations can be substantial.  Diving operations also require a considerable amount of training and experience.  National authorities and donors need to decide early on which capabilities must be developed locally versus tasks that should be conducted by other organisations.

Divers removing an underwater ERW
Divers preparing to go into a boat in Ukraine

The GICHD has developed a proactive approach to mitigate the risks of underwater EO and their associated socio-economic impact.  It combines military tactics and mine action methodologies using commercial technology to clear underwater EO in a safe, efficient and cost-effective manner.  

In 2014, the GICHD drafted and published an international mine action standard (IMAS) for underwater survey and clearance of EO. Efforts will continue in 2015 with the development of a best practices guide and underwater equipment trials in order to contribute to the safety, efficiency and cost effectiveness of underwater explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) operations.