There are new warnings that thousands of World War II shipwrecks in the Pacific, still containing millions of litres of oil, pose a potential environmental disaster. Those involved in a new remediation program say they're in a race against time.
It's estimated more than 3000 ships sank during the war in waters across Asia and the Pacific. Studies have shown that they're coming to the end of their life spans, with their metal walls now corroding.
Paul Adams and his team at the Major Projects Foundation have spent the past year assessing the wrecks and have narrowed the number down to 55 they say need urgent attention — in waters off countries like Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Palau.
The foundation's director, Paul Adams, last year bought an old New Zealand warship with his wife Wilma, and they have made it their mission to prevent a major oil spill.
He says the cost of not doing anything will be huge.
"Some of these tankers out there, we're talking about millions of litres. The clean-up cost will be enormous. It might be $4 or $5 million now to take the oil out, it'll be $50, $60, $70 [million] if we don't," he told Pacific Beat.
"Not to mention the environmental damage, which is irreparable. It's something that needs to be done urgently, and we are running out of time, there's no question about that".
They're now partnering with the University of Newcastle and the Pacific's leading environmental group, SPREP, to bring scientists, engineers and historians together for a remediation program.Fijian Awei Bainivalu is a PhD student at the university and on the team, piloting a process known as bio-remediation that could be one of the technologies used to remove the oil.