Reports of munitions finds by trawlers rocket

22nd August 2005, Comments 0 comments

22 August 2005, AMSTERDAM — The number of reports of munitions being netted by fishing boats in the North Sea has risen sharply in recent months.

22 August 2005

AMSTERDAM — The number of reports of munitions being netted by fishing boats in the North Sea has risen sharply in recent months.

Three of the crew of a fishing boat from the Dutch town of Ouddorp were killed last April by a Second World War bomb taken aboard in the vessel's nets.

Since then the Dutch coastguard has received more than 200 reports of fishing vessels picking up munitions from the seafloor.

The authorities used to receive several dozen reports annually in the years before that, Defence Minister Henk Kemp told the Parliament in The Hague on Monday.

The British authorities estimated in the 1950s that at least 300,000 tonnes of explosives from the First and Second World Wars were dumped in the North Sea. 

The captains of fishing vessels have a duty to tell the Coastguard when munitions are picked up by their nets. The navy is then called in to dispose of the explosives in a controlled way.

In reality bombs caught in fishing nets are often thrown back into the sea. This is because trawler crews often find it too risky to keep a potential unstable bomb or artillery shell aboard a boat that is being tossed about by the sea.

There is also a financial factor: the compensation for handing over munitions to the authorities often does not offset the cost of waiting for the navy to arrive.

But since the death of the three people on the Maarten Jacob OD-1, the captains of Dutch fishing vessels have been increasingly prepared to pass on the coordinates of munitions thrown back into the sea.

"The fishing community is more aware of the dangers posed by these projectiles since the accident," Gerrit Miedema, the deputy director of the Coastguard said. There have been 219 reports in relation to 222 explosive devices since April.

The navy has recently started supplying fishing crews with marker buoys to indicate the location of munitions dumped back into the sea. Explosive experts are also providing additional information to the fishing sector on what to do when a bomb is brought aboard in a fishing net.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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