News from the CONMAR project

2nd CONMAR Annual Meeting on the Isle of Vilm

Vilm, 12.-14.February 2024

The 2nd CONMAR Annual Meeting took place from 12 to 14 February 2024 at the International Academy for Nature Conservation Isle of Vilm located near the beautiful Isle Rügen. In presentations and workshops, we exchanged information on the latest research results and started the planning of further activities in 2024. In addition to the actual working meeting, CONMAR invited representatives of various interest groups on 12 February 2024 to provide them with the current status of munitions research and to discuss the clearance activities that - on behalf of the German government - will begin in the second quarter of 2024. In total, more than 35 people attended the meeting on Vilm. We would like to thank all participants for the valuable exchange of ideas and the stimulating discussions. We would also like to thank the BfN for giving us the opportunity to hold our meeting at this special location.

Daniela Henkel, GEOMAR

5th CONMAR Newsletter

Kiel, February 2024

The 5th CONMAR Newsletter is available. You can find the latest issue here.

Daniela Henkel, GEOMAR

sustainMare Mid Term Conference - A great success for the mission and for CONMAR

Kiel, 30. August - 1. September 2023

From 30.08.-01.09.2023, almost 200 participants, including politicians, scientists, representatives of authorities and associations as well as industry came together at the CAU in Kiel. The conference was organised by CAU (SpaCeParti) and GEOMAR (CONMAR) in close cooperation with the mission coordination. As part of the sustainMare Mid Term Conference, an event for young researchers (PhD students and postdocs) already took place on 29.08.2023 at GEOMAR in close collaboration with FYORD and PACT, with more than 50 participants. We would like to thank all participants for their commitment, which made this event a great success. More information can be found here.

Daniela Henkel, GEOMAR

©Josephine Wolf, Uni Kiel

Scientists from AWI and GEOMAR together on the research vessel Heincke in the North Sea

North Sea, 6-20. June 2023

Scientists from AWI and GEOMAR spent 14 days together on the AWI research vessel Heincke in the North Sea. During this cruise, the concentrations of explosives in water, sediment and fish were investigated for the first time. Samples were taken from the entire German Bight, from the German-Dutch border up to Sylt. Furthermore, already known dumping and munitions suspicion sites around Helgoland, Sylt and north of the island Spiekeroog could be mapped in high resolution and examined magnetometrically. First results of the joint excursion can certainly be presented during the Mid-Term-Meeting at the end of August in Kiel!

Matthias Brenner, AWI

Toxicologists from Kiel University explain the environmental hazards of dumped World War II munitions at the Council of the Baltic Sea States meeting in Wismar

Wismar, 1/2. June 2023

At their meeting in Wismar on June 1 and 2, 2023, the foreign ministers of the Council of the Baltic Sea States agreed on closer cooperation in the salvage and disposal of munitions from the world wars that are stored on the seabed. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wants investors in the construction of offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea to participate in the salvage of munitions waste in the future. In the final declaration, the council members point out the dangers that conventional and chemical munitions pose to the marine environment, fisheries, shipping and renewable energy plants. According to estimates by the Fraunhofer Institute, there are up to 400,000 tons of conventional munitions and about 40,000 tons of chemical warfare agents in the Baltic Sea. The Institute for Toxicology and Pharmacology for Natural Scientists of the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein under the direction of Prof. Dr. Edmund Maser provided essential insights into the environmental hazards of these toxic explosives in more than 10 years of research work. After a short lecture by Dr. Jennifer Strehse in Wismar, Dr. Strehse and Prof. Maser were available to answer the foreign ministers' questions.

Edmund Maser, UKSH

left: Dr. Jennifer Strehse and Prof. Edmund Maser in front of exhibits of rusting World War II ammunition. (pic: E. Maser)

middle: The 25 foreign ministers of the Council of the Baltic Sea States and their delegation are welcomed by the Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Manuela Schwesig. (pic: E. Maser)

right: Dr. Jennifer Strehse during her presentation on the dangers of dumped World War II munitions to the foreign ministers of the Baltic Sea states. (pic: E. Maser)

Marine Munition Data Compilation – Germany

Kiel, 26. May 2023

The Marine Munition Data Compilation - Germany as a data management product of WP2 went online at the Marine Data Portal of the German Marine Research Alliance (Deutsche Allianz Meeresforschung (DAM)).

Project stakeholders as well as the public can explore open datasets on the subject “Munitions in the Sea”. The contents of this portal are highly federated. The displayed data is therefore hosted at the data-producing locations (scientific centres, authorities, private sector, etc.) themselves and are only merged in the viewer. The viewer thus represents a central tool to enable cooperative and collaborative work on the data generated in the project and will be further developed over the course of the CONMAR project."

Marcus Krüger, GEOMAR

EGU 2023 - CONMAR contribution invited to press conference

Vienna, 28. April 2023

At the EGU 2023, CONMAR scientists organized a session on "The impact of munition components on the marine environment". CONMAR has contributed with several presentations. One of these, together with only 22 out of a total of 17,000 conference abstracts, was honored to be invited to an international press conference with more than 190 journalists.

Daniela Henkel, GEOMAR

Making research tangible for pupils

Bremerhaven, 17. April 2023

CONMAR is actively engaged in getting young people excited about research. As part of a cooperation with the Lloyds Gymnasium Bremerhaven, Dr. Jörn Peter Scharsack (CONMAR member at the Thünen Institute) gave a lecture for 7th graders on the topic of marine munitions contamination on April 17, 2023. The students were very well prepared and participated actively in the discussions on the lecture.

Jörn Scharsack, Thünen

With the research vessel Alkor (again) in search of munition in the Baltic Sea

Baltic Sea, 17.-31. March 2023

From March 17-31, 2023, a 14-day cruise took place with the participation of 16 scientists and engineers as part of the CONMAR project. The aim was a further investigation of munition dumping sites in the German Baltic Sea. For this purpose the following equipment was used: CTD, VanVeen Grab, MiniMUC, XOFOS, Multibeam, ROV and an AUV. In the wet lab, the XploTector was used for direct measurement of TNT components. The study area covered the coastline from the Flensburg Bay to the Polish-German border above the Szczecin Lagoon.

Daniela Henkel, GEOMAR

Numerical models - a tool for identification and prioritization of (munitions) contaminant sources

*Rostock, March 2023

Several scientific projects have been carried out in the Baltic and North Sea to assess the possible threat to the marine environment through dumped munitions, mainly after the two World Wars. For example, it is now known that munitions dumpsites are hotspots of chemical pollution. Toxic substances, such as TNT, are released into the seawater. The last 60 years led to extensive metal shell corrosion and resulted in munition compounds' leakage. Therefore, it is crucial not only for the protection of the marine environment but also for the safety of the offshore infrastructure to map the dumpsites, prepare samples for disposal, and propose remediation and clearance measures. Oceanographic modeling is a powerful and indispensable tool to understand the processes controlling the dispersion of munitions compounds in seawater (e.g., TNT). Oceanographic models are widely used to simulate the state of the ocean. They can also be used to simulate and predict the distribution and dispersion of munitions compounds. Numerical models allow us to identify and prioritize contaminant sources, produce risk maps, and ultimately provide decision-making recommendations. In CONMAR, the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research (IOW) is responsible for oceanographic modeling. To be able to simulate the Baltic Sea and the Western Baltic Sea in a regional nest with higher resolution, we use the General Estuarine and Transport Model (GETM), a state-of-the-art numerical coastal ocean model, and an attached TNT module. More than 30 tracers have been released into the virtual ocean to model the release of TNT from potential munitions disposal sites. The locations of these sources correspond to known and documented munitions disposal sites. Since some munitions dump sites have yet to be discovered or have been inadequately sampled, the model results are also used to detect such potential sources. Sensitivity experiments and numerical simulations will be performed to evaluate the contribution and magnitude of individual munitions disposal sites to total TNT contamination. We will use these results to develop a priority list of contaminated sites.

To improve the model performance, plenty of observational data are necessary. In-situ observations are commonly used to validate and calibrate numerical models. Here, the observational data that were collected during dedicated field campaigns are used to evaluate and boost the GETM performance. The ship-based measurements are also used to constrain the simulated TNT release and achieve more consistent results. The first numerical experiments indicate that the existing model can serve as a predictive tool for the spread and dispersion of munitions-related chemicals.

Dissolution and degradation experiments are also planned in order to quantify the rate at which chemicals enter the marine environment. This will be incorporated into the numerical model for the first time. The model will also be used to study the potential effect of climate change on marine munitions since it is currently unknown to which degree the sea-dumped munitions can be affected by increased ocean temperatures or altered storm activity. Further model developments are planned to account not only for the dissolved but also for the particulate munition compounds.

Ulf Graewe, IOW

The video at shows TNT concentration in the near bottom layer for the year 2018. Please note the non-linear color coding.

Announcement - CONMAR at the Marine Environment Symposium from 9-10.05.2023 in Hamburg

*Hamburg, 9.-10. May 2023

Every year, the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency organizes the Marine Environment Symposium in Hamburg in cooperation with the Federal Environment Agency and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation on behalf of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection. In 2023, the focus will be on the state of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and other current topics such as offshore wind energy, underwater noise as well as munitions in the sea. CONMAR will be represented again this year with presentations and posters on the latest findings on the topic of munitions in the sea (here for the program).

Daniela Henkel, GEOMAR

FS Heincke sets sail again in the name of research on munition in the sea

*North Sea, 20.-24. February 2023

Accompanied by two members of the press, the team of North Sea Wrecks set sail with the research vessel Heincke for another trip to wrecks in the German Bight (HE613, February 20-24, 2023). The goal was to take samples directly at the wreck of the SMS Mainz together with the AWI divers and to fish around the SMS Ariadne. Unfortunately, the weather was once again a problem for the NSW team. The divers were able to approach the wreck, but after the last storm days the visibility near the bottom was so bad that the sampling by the divers had to be aborted. The work on the SMS Ariadne was more successful. Here, enough fish could be caught, whose samples can now be analyzed in the laboratories of AWI and Kiel University.

Matthias Brenner, AWI

@pictures: AWi/Ute Marx

Kick-off - Immediate Munition Recovery Program

Berlin, 17. February 2023

In the coalition agreement, the German government committed itself to setting up an immediate program to pilot munition clearance and destruction. A planning and coordination project has been launched for this purpose. In order to ensure the close cooperation of all parties and interest groups - federal government, states, industry, science, civil society and environmental associations - necessary for this, the responsible Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) has invited to a kick-off meeting in Berlin on February 17, 2023. Steffi Lemke the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety, and Consumer Protection opened the event. CONMAR representatives were also invited to attend the meeting.

Daniela Henkel, GEOMAR

Equipment test drive for inspection, clearance and contamination monitoring

Kolberger Heide, Kiel, 16. Februar 2023

The cruise was a joint effort between GEOMAR, K.U.M. GmbH, and SeaTerra GmbH to test an in situ dissolved explosives sampling device on a newly-developed crawler for munitions inspection and clearance. The tests were conducted on FK LITTORINA near the Kolberger Heide munitions dumpsite. The crawler investigated several suspected munitions targets identified from bathymetric maps from the DSM group at GEOMAR. One object was likely a large stone, but a second target appeared to be a two-meter ground mine. Dissolved explosives were sampled near the targets using the XploTaker device developed during the EMFF-funded ExPloTect project. The XploTaker is visible mounted on the top of the crawler in the images. Explosive samples were then measured onboard LITTORINA by the Xplotector, a portable and automated system also developed during the ExPloTect project. Together, these innovative systems provide the necessary tools for inspection, clearance, and contamination monitoring during remediation of underwater muntions.

Aaron Beck, GEOMAR

CONMAR reaching out to the North Sea ─ first sampling of fish at outer Jade munition dump sites

North Sea, 16.-27. January 2023

According to archive research, enormous amounts of munition (>300 000t, were dumped in the Northern Jade estuary after WWII. Due to ongoing corrosion of the dumped munition, leakage of harmful munition compound to the marine environment is expected. The SOLEA cruise 816, January 16-27 2023 (pic 1) aimed at the historically first sampling of fish (common dab, Limanda limanda) and water samples for munition compounds in close proximity to the North Sea Jade area dumped munition (see map). Before the start of the cruise, crew members and scientific staff received a briefing from the Lower Saxony explosive ordnance clearance service. Experienced ordnance clearers explained how to deal with munition that might be picked up with bottom beam trawls and left containers for the storage of munition items on board (pic 2). Due to heavy storm, the start of the cruise from Cuxhaven was delayed by one day. First sampling at Scharhörn reef was complicated by bad weather and half of the scientific staff being seasick. Sampling was continued at the outer Jade region near dumped munition and 30 dabs were successfully investigated and sampled for body fluids (blood, urine, bile) and tissues (liver, spleen, kidney, muscle, gill) for later laboratory chemical analysis for residual munition compounds such as TNT (trinitrotoluene). Bad weather and technical problems forced the ship to search protection in the harbour of Wilhelmshaven, due to high professionalism of the crew, the cruise was continued instantly and more sites around the Jade estuary and further west along the German coast up to the Ems estuary were sampled. On the way back to Cuxhaven, last sampling in the Jade estuary yielded a corroded chunk of munition, the bottom part of a 8.8 cm munition shell which contained residuals of the propellant, indicating the it was a dumped (not discharged) munition item (pic 3). Visible inspection of fish for diseases on board did not reveal any obvious health issues of dab collected near munition dump sites in comparison with control sites without dumped munition. Samples from water and fish were transferred to participating laboratories (AWI, GEOMAR, UKSH, Thünen) and are currently processed for chemical analysis of potential residual munition compounds. Laboratory analysis will reveal if and to which extend fish are contaminated with munition compounds.

Joern Scharsack, Thuenen

CONMAR Annual Meeting in Berlin

Berlin, 12 December 2022

For the first time, the CONMAR consortium met after one year of operation. From 12-13.12.2022, about 30 CONMAR members came together to present and discuss the results udn project progress of the last year. The meeting was hosted by CONMAR partner the Global Climate Forum in Berlin. A big thank you to all participants for coming and for the fruitful exchange.

Daniela Henkel, GEOMAR

RV ALKOR sets (again) sail for munitions research

Kiel, 30 October 2022

From 24.-31.10.2022 a team of technician, engineers and researchers the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and the Senckenberg am Meer Marine Research Institute joined a cruise (AL583) to the Western Baltic Sea on RV #ALKOR. In the framework of the projects BASTA, CONMAR and ExPloTect, we successfully continued our multidisciplinary research concerning marine UXO and explosive compounds detection methods. For the first time we achieved that our backseat driver algorithm of Girona500 AUV "Luise" successfully managed to autonomously locate and examine an individual UXO object solely based on in-situ magnetic anomaly detections. Regarding the biochemical research, dozens of van Veen grab samples were collected inside and outside of munition dump sites. CTDs were run at more than 50 stations along the coast at various depths.The analysis will help to answer, inter alia, the following questions: What influence do munition compounds have on the species diversity and abundance of the benthic fauna in the Baltic Sea? Which munition compounds can be detected where and in which concentrations? Do the compounds accumulate in the sediment?

Daniela Henkel, GEOMAR

RV Searching for ammunition traces in the North Sea with the RV Heincke

Bremerhaven, 29 September 2022

After the first autumn storm delayed the departure by two days, the North Sea Wreck (NSW) team set out together with arte for the last project trip to the German Bight. The targets were WW1 wrecks, including a minelayer submarine (UC30) off Esbjerg and two light destroyers, SMS ''Mainz'' and SMS 'Ariadne', both sunk west of Helgoland. Followed at every turn by the arte camera drones and microphones, the team was able to sample water, sediment and fish at the UC30, but failed to produce video footage with the ROV. Reason: the current around the wreck was simply too strong to keep the ROV on course. Under time pressure water samples could still be taken at 'Mainz' and 'Ariadne'. However, the fishnets on the Ariadne were completely empty. Only one dab could be caught by the NSW team for their investigations. But the ROV remains on board and the colleagues from ICBM Oldenburg want to start further attempts to film the wrecks in the next leg of the cruise. We are excited and keep our fingers crossed.

Matthias Brenner, AWI

Munition in the sea - state of affairs and perspectives

Berlin, August 2022

Together with DAM (German Alliance for Marine Research), we have produced a German position paper on the state of knowledge and the possible future of munitions in the sea. With this, we want to inform politicians and other decision-makers and offer insights into possible solutions to the problem.

Daniela Henkel, GEOMAR


Munition in the Sea on the political agenda

Kiel, 11 August 2022

The two members of the Bundestag Mr. Sönke Rix and Mr. Mathias Stein informed themselves today at GEOMAR among other things about the problem of munition in the sea and the status quo of research.

Daniela Henkel, GEOMAR

(from left to right: Prof. Dr. Sylvia Sander (GEOMAR), MdB Sönke Rix, Prof. Dr. Katja Matthes, Director GEOMAR, MdB Mathias Stein, Prof. Dr. Jens Greinert (GEOMAR), Prof. Dr. Klaus Wallmann (GEOMAR))

Daniela Henkel, GEOMAR

Parliamentary Evening

Berlin, 22 June 2022

One important aspect of solving the issue of munitions in the sea, is the collaboration between scientific institutions, private companies and other stakeholders. To further strengthen these connections and to inform German parliamentarians, Fraunhofer IGD invited members of the German Bundestag, CONMAR members and other guests to an informative evening in Berlin. The event was opened by a keynote from Claudia Müller (Federal Government Coordinator for the Maritime Industry and for Tourism). Presentations on the role of the expert group Munitions in the Sea (Dr. Johannes Oelerich, MELUND), on the German navy's capacities (Flottillenadmiral Jürgen zur Mühlen), on the private industries' capabilities and technological gaps (Jan Koelbel, STASCHEIT Kampfmittelräumung GmbH) and on applied science requirements (Prof. Uwe Freiherr von Lukas, Fraunhofer IDG) informed the audience on what is needed for a successful upscaling of maritime explosive ordnance disposal. Food and drinks were generously offered and the ensuing lively discussions on the way forward were sparked by the presentations, making this evening an interesting and successful one for all the participants.

Torsten Frey, GEOMAR

European Maritime Day 2022

Ravenna, 20 May 2022

The issue of ammuntion in the sea is receiving more and more attention all over Europe. To present the research that was done in Germany over the past years and to moderate a panel on the topic, I travelled to the European Maritime Day (EMD) event held in Ravenna, Italy. To make sure the perspective of the military and the relevant private sector industries on the topic were represented as well, we invited Catherine Warner (NATO CMRE) and Dieter Guldin (SeaTerra GmbH) to join our panel. This way, we were also able to cover the Baltic, the North and the Mediterranean Seas. In an one hour session, we offered a brief look at the problems related to the munitions and an extensive overview of the potential solutions. The entire session was recorded and can be viewed in the video below.

Torsten Frey, GEOMAR


Wilhelmshaven, 3 May 2022

Today, as part of the CONMAR project, I had my first trip with a research cutter. After a corona test and a safety briefing, the Senckenberg left Wilhelmshaven at 8AM. At this trip we traveled until Wangerooge, including strong swell and a delicious lunch. According to research, there are about 600,000 tons of munition in this area. We went to a total of eight measuring stations, where we took water and sediment samples. These are now subsequently being analyzed for explosive-type compounds, pollutants, and TNT. This will provide information on the environmental impact of contamination from dumped munitions, which in turn will provide information on management strategies for dealing with these munitions. In addition, the samples will be used to build a database of marine bacterial populations for the sister project CREATE. The field trip was a lot of fun and gave me, as a social scientist, an excellent insight into the working procedures of my natural science colleagues from CONMAR and CREATE. 

Alexander Pechmann, Global Climate Forum