Baltic Challenge

Baltic Challenge – a science and technology project

The aim of the Baltic Challenge is to support the development of robotics and space technologies for the monitoring and efficient elimination of environmental hazards in the Baltic Sea, in particular, those arising from Chemical Warfare Agents (CWA) deposited on the seabed.

 

The project consists of three interrelated activities:

  • A series of scientific and business conferences devoted to CWA’s problem in the Baltic Sea, discussion about the development of roboticscommunication and satellite technologies for CWA monitoring, extraction, and disposal. The conferences will gather representatives of science and business, state and local administration, and non-governmental organizations from the Baltic Sea countries interested in activities concerning the protection of the Baltic Sea environment.
  • A competition for developing and implementing a comprehensive system for identifying and monitoring CWA storage sites using underwater robots, ROV, communication technologies, and satellite observations.
  • A competition for the development and implementation of working systems, robots and ROVs capable of securing and retrieving to the surface drums and containers containing CWA and substances released as a result of the disintegration of containers and deposited in the near-bottom area.The competition is intended for: students and employees of universities and scientific institutes, as well as technology companies, involved in robotics and building underwater devices, and with strong focus on CSR and selected Sustainable Development Goals indicated in “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” adopted by the United Nations in 2015. 

 

 

The Problem – Ecological threat

At least 50 K tons of chemical munitions – among others mustard gas, phosgene, clark 1 and clark 2, adamsite and tabun – were sunk to the bottom of the Baltic Sea after World War II. They were enclosed in metal drums and containers in wooden crates.

The main storage areas are located at the bottom of Bornholm Basin at depths of 70-105 m, Gotland Basin at depths of 80-100 m, and Gdansk Basin at depths of 50-80 m (see the map). Many other individual sites have not been identified to date.

 

Source: http://www.chemsea.eu/characterization_and_mapping.php, 5.03.2021.

 

Containers containing CWAs were expected to last at least 100-150 years, but many have already broken down. CWAs that dissolve in water are spread with ocean currents over considerable distances. CWAs that dissolve in fat through bioaccumulation pose a constant threat to marine animals and humans. The Polish Baltic coast is the most exposed to CWA contamination. Since 1952, several hundred incidents caused by CWA, including burns, have been reported on beaches in Dziwnow, Kolobrzeg, and Darlowo.

The problem has been growing for about 20 years and may soon require urgent intervention. The Baltic Sea’s increasing average temperature is causing poisonous substances to be released more and more quickly. According to experts, the release of just a dozen or so percent of CWA could cause the Baltic to become a “dead sea” and its coastlines contaminated for several hundred years.

 

Community involvement in problem-solving

Due to the scale of the problem of CWAs dumped in the Baltic Sea, it is necessary to engage in cooperation with the state and local administration of the Baltic countries, international and local companies as well as non-governmental organizations that conduct their activities based on CSR philosophy – sustainable development and following the principles of social responsibility.

The key to solving the problem is not only to adequately publicize the issue of CWA and build public awareness of the potential threat but, above all, to take concrete steps towards the development of equipment and technologies that will allow efficient extraction and utilization of CWA.

ESF TEAM – Lukasz Wilczynski

CONTACT PERSON

Lukasz

Wilczynski

ESF TEAM – Maciej Iwankiewicz

CONTACT PERSON

Maciej

Iwankiewicz