Q & A with munitions expert Terry Long

By GORDON DELANEY Staff Reporter
Published May 27, 2013 – 8:06am
Last Updated May 27, 2013 – 8:11am


Q & A with munitions expert Terry Long

Unexploded ordinance, disabled or non-live bombs are flagged for disposal in the live impact area of the former US Naval Training Range, on Vieques Island, off Puerto Rico in 2007. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Terry Long of Sydney is a former military engineer and explosive ordnance disposal expert with more than 30 year experience.

Since leaving the military, Long, has worked at clearing munitions from land and underwater sites. In 2004, he formed the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions, a non-governmental organization that provides a platform for industry, politicians and stakeholders to explore and address the issue.

He spoke on the issue in a recent interview from The Hague. (His answers have been edited for length.)

For a number of years, we’ve had the Chemical Weapons Convention, but sea-dump munitions have never been part of it. Recently, we hosted an event in co-operation with Lithuania and Poland where we were able to discuss sea-dump munitions with people from around the world. Some delegations from different countries were not even aware that they had munitions in the oceans, like Iceland, Australia and New Zealand and India. We were able to get a piece put into the Chemical Weapons Convention, and we now have a working document. We have a voluntary form of co-operation to look at cleaning up the munitions. There has been consensus that it’s time to reduce the negative impact on our oceans.

Q: How important is that?

A: This is a landmark decision by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Nobody thought we were going to get anywhere. Instead of one line, we got a three-page working document and a complete paragraph, which is a lot.

Q: What does it mean for Nova Scotia?

A: By doing so, we can create an economic stimulus for the transfer of technologies and skills to other countries. We could have European countries working with Canadian and U.S. companies cleaning this stuff up. There are more than 3,000 sites off the coasts of Nova Scotia where First and Second World War munitions were dumped. There would be multiple opportunities for Nova Scotians. All the equipment I use is very high-tech. It’s a perfect thing for today’s generation to work with.

Q: What does it mean for you personally?

A: It means an international opportunity where I can take young people and develop high-tech skills and travel to other parts of the world to detect, map and clean up munitions. I have my own autonomous underwater vehicle … which has a (side-scan sonar), one of the most sophisticated scanners you can get today. We can take photos beneath the ocean and under the seabed to create 3-D images of where munitions are and how to address cleaning them up.

Q: What’s the next step?

A: To have another event on technology in The Hague in July with 190 states. We’ll sit down and start looking at some of the things that need to be done. A lot of what we’re doing now is collecting information and preparing to report to the secretary general of the United Nations in December. I will be identifying the concerns and how we address this collectively. Some of the things we need are policy standards and procedures and an international trust fund for cleanup. Everybody wants to move forward. Even the Americans and Russians are on board.