Marine unexploded ordnance (UXO) guidance released

CIRIA's latest report: Assessment and management of unexploded ordnance (UXO) risk in the marine environment (C754) is now available to order. 

As the offshore energy industry expands in UK and European waters, construction in the marine environment - ranging from installation of wind turbine foundations to cable laying – is taking place on an unprecedented scale. Throughout this process it is imperative that developers take account of and address site-specific risks, both to the safety of personnel and to the successful completion of a project.

One such risk is posed by the sizeable legacy of unexploded ordnance left behind on the seabed by two World Wars, years of munitions dumping and military training and testing. Several European offshore wind projects have experienced costly delays relating to mismanagement of UXO risks especially during construction, highlighting the need for a more robust and coordinated approach to the assessment and mitigation of this risk.

Furthermore, as projects move from the early construction phases into a prolonged period of operations and maintenance (O&M) activity, incoming management teams must be made aware of the on going threat posed by the prospective migration of UXO throughout the lifecycle of a project. The importance of responsible management is further underlined by a range of European and national legislation that makes project directors fully accountable should a UXO-related incident occur on site.

Faced with this substantial long-term health and safety, legal and economic hazard, the marine construction industry has increasingly called for guidance with regard to the ongoing management of UXO risk. 

The publication provides guidance to organisations involved with the planning, design, delivery, operation and maintenance, decommissioning or regulation of projects in the marine environment on the assessment and management of unexploded ordnance (UXO) risks. The guide focuses principally upon managing those risks that might be generated by UXO containing high explosives (HE), including abandoned explosive ordnance (AXO) such as sea-dumped munitions or abandoned ship or aircraft wrecks, but those munitions containing chemical warfare agents are outside of its main scope.

Joanne Kwan, Project Manager, CIRIA said ‘This document is the first UK good practice guidance and will provide comprehensive UXO risk management guidelines for all organisations working throughout the lifecycle of marine energy, cabling and infrastructure projects.”

Simon Cooke, Managing Director, at 6 Alpha Associates, and a former Army bomb Disposal officer said: “The law requires that UXO risk must be reduced to a level that is As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP). That means that a responsible, economic risk mitigation strategy is likely to involve avoiding known and suspected threats that may have been identified by specialist geophysical survey, and to keep to a minimum, as is commensurate with safety, those items that must be investigated, verified and, if they are in fact UXO, made safe”.  

“However, until now, a lack of understanding  – whether between developers and contractors or between the management teams responsible for each phase of a project’s operation – has led many industry players either to neglect the true scale of the UXO threat until it’s too late, or to adopt excessive and very expensive clearance strategies.”

Nick Cooper, Technical Director, Royal HaskoningDHV, added: “This report aims to lay the foundations for a universal best practice, ensuring that information is readily accessible to professionals across the field, and to ensure that regulations are established concerning the effective management of UXO risks” 

“By bringing in centralised, formal guidance, we’re hoping to address a worrying knowledge gap once and for all and a the same time, to enhance standards across the board.”

To order a copy of CIRIA guide Assessment and Management of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Risk in the Marine Environment, please visit the CIRIA bookshop.