To clean away the ship graveyards

A Murmansk environmental foundation goes on to clean away a "graveyard" of sunken ships in the Kola fjord.
Text and photo Alexey Filin / Murmansk
June 30, 2005

A ship graveyard makes a sad sight. If you are traveling on a boat along the coast of the Kola fjord the sight of half-sunken rusty vessels will accompany you as far as the open sea. These many-tons heavy garbage sites do not only deform the nice view on the fjord, but also make a big threat to the environment as well as to navigation.

The Murmansk non-commercial ecological organization called “Environmental Harmony Evolution Fund" (EHEF) has been working to solve that problem since it was established 2001.

The foundation’s president Nikolay Cheremisin (photo under) tells that the reason to set it up was "a desire of several well-established businessmen to do something good for the native land". They decided to start with cleaning the Kola fjord from sunken and abandoned vessels.

Those vessels do present a serious danger. A ship is made up of many materials, which get into water with time and pollute it, several ships still have fuel aboard. Some of those vessels can cause a collision as it happened with boat Teriberka. With growing oil transportation perspectives this creates a real danger for the ecosystem!
Unfortunately, the Russian legislation does not foresee any legal ways to make ship-owners take care of their abandoned vessels or even make them pay any fine for that.
At first the regional government’s attention was attracted by the problem as back as 1997. The mess with fleets’ property caused many of the vessels to be abandoned. Vladimir Bakharev, the foundation’s executive director says that it often happened that someone bought an old vessel for almost nothing, dismantled everything of value and left the ship to its destiny… In 2001 there were about 400 such vessels; about half of them are in the Kola fjord.

"We started with the scrap place at the mouth of the Lavna-river, right opposite the city of Murmansk. Preliminary we counted about 18 vessels but then it turned out that many vessels lay on each other in three layers like a cake!" …quot; Nikolay Cheremisin says.

…quot; "Now we have lifted and utilized 13 of them. If we had no problems with financing, we would have cleaned all that area long time ago!"
Another direction of the foundation’s activity, also connected with the sunken ships, is assessment of water pollution in the Kola fjord. It showed that the scrap accumulates lot of harmful substances; prevent the water from circulation and natural cleaning. While the Kola fjord is a passing place for many valuable fishes!

The main problem that the foundation meets is financing. It’s expensive to lift and utilize a ship, and the more it goes on the more finances it requires. The money earned from selling the scrap metal cover not more than one third of the expenses.

The government understands the problem but no fund came either from the regional nor from the federal authorities yet. So the foundation has so far existed only on the subsidies given by the founders and friendly companies.

The foundation tries to attract other interested parties. "We offered the British side to look into opportunity to lift the sunken convoy ships of the WW2. But no reply yet." …quot; says Bakharev."

Then Bakharev adds "It is the Norwegian Barents Secretariat who gave us a real help. In addition to financing, that organization has helped us with very important contacts …quot; to meet Norwegian companies working with the same issues. The foundation is badly in need of new competence. Conventional underwater works are expensive and cannot be applied everywhere on the coast. Norwegian companies have both modern technology and equipment that can help to clean the scrap off the Kola fjord in no time!"


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