WRECKS OF THE WORLD II: Evaluating and Addressing Potential Underwater Threats
Washington, DC Area (Linthicum Heights, Md), USA
June 6-7, 2011
An international survey (Michel et al., 2005) has identfied over 8,500 sunken shipwrecks in marine waters around the world, including more than 1,500 sunken tank vessels (≥ 150 gross tons) and nearly 7,000 sunken non-tank vessels (≥ 400 gross tons). These wrecks may contain as much as 20 million tons (140 million barrels) of oil and other hazardous materials. Sporadic or continuous leakages or potential sudden massive spillages from these wrecks, 75 percent of which stem from World War II, pose a continual risk across the globe.
The problem of potentially-polluting wrecks has long been discussed and recent incidents around the world have caused government agencies and responsible par/es to look proactively at prevenitng catastrophic oil
and other chemical releases from
long submerged shipwrecks. The risk of oil and other hazardous materials seeping out of sunken shipwrecks is growing yearly, and the likelihood of leakage or even a massive spill occurring increases, as do the potential costs. Taking a proactive rather than a reactive approach to mitigating this risk will save not only dollars in response costs, but also reduce the threat of environmental and socioeconomic damages.
From the viewpoint of environmental and economic impacts, there is little difference between oil spill
ing from a sunken vessel and oil spilling from
a modern day vessel casualty, with the exception that, while there is no way to predict the location or timing of the next major oil spill
, potentially-polluting wreck sites are known and the probability of an spill event is quantifiable or even inevitable. There is ample evidence that there are a large number of wrecks in coastal
waters that are spills waiting to happen.