Albania and the Disposal of Surplus Ammunition


AlbaniaThe Albanian Armed Forces (AAF) have been controlling and safeguarding a significant amount of excess ammunition largely made in Russia (1945-1960), China (1961-1976) and Albania (1967-1992).

In 1992, the AAF were in charge of more than 194,000 tons of ammunition, distributed among 182 locations and stored in 955 depots. The beginning of the AAF reorganization, a still ongoing effort, entailed cuts for some units and their ammunition were stored in nearby facilities.

In the following years, these deposits were used beyond their storage capacity and without compliance to the rules, thus increasing risks for the civilian population. About 95% of the ammunition was more than 40 years old, but the ammunition average shelf life is 15-20 years, according to the available information and foreign experts’ opinions.

Therefore, most of the ammunition lost their physical and chemical properties and went down the allowed security parameters implying the possibility of self-ignition phenomena.

In addition, due to demographic changes and lack of controls many houses were built close to the ammunition depots since 1991, violating safety distances and, as a result, increasing the potential for incidents to the detriment of both the population and environment. In fact, explosions subsequently occurred.

From this point of view, the country did not meet the required security standards.

Then, amid the 1997 riots, weapons and ammunition depots were looted by groups of people and criminal gangs. That posed a serious threat to domestic and also regional security, as the content of the storage facilities could be exported outside the Albanian borders.

Thus, the country became a subject of interest for those international criminal organizations involved in arms trafficking.

In coping with the emergency, there has been a continuous effort by the Albanian government aimed at retrieving arms and ammunition in possession of the population. At the same time, the actual implementation of the security and maintenance provisions in the depots ensured that the management of the ammunition and explosive elimination took place without incidents.

In 1999, an ad hoc disposal plant was set up under the control of the Arms and Military Equipment (AME) committee. At first, there were 30 staff members employed, but AME enhanced its structure in 2000 after merging into the AAF and currently consists of 92 officers.

According to some estimates, in 2002 there were about 110,000 tons of excess ammunition to be dismantled. Despite the difficulties that the Committee encountered due to the AAF reorganization, from 2002 to 2008 75,000 tons of ammunition of different calibers were destroyed in accomplishment of a long-term plan devised by the AAF.

Nevertheless, the explosion occurred in Gërdec on March 15th, 2008, had a negative impact on the ammunition-dismantling process, besides damaging people and infrastructures.

In the aftermath of this incident, the AAF reconsidered the risk posed by the ammunition and redefined both the timeline and methods of its disposal. Hence, it was decided that all the unexploded devices labeled as dangerous and excess ammunition had to be eliminated by 2011 and 2014 respectively.

Up to now, the plan has been successfully implemented even exceeding expectations and without incidents.

The reduction of the AAF, which was among the reform to be taken in order to join NATO, determined an increase in the amount of excess ammunition. However, in 2002 AME succeeded in dismantling 40,000 tons more than foreseen by the plan (in 2010, the extra tons were 20,000).

The total amount of ammunition estimated for the 2010-2013 period was 72,170 tons, plus 6,233 tons of free residue destroyed in 2009 and 2,030 tons of different types of ammunition gathered in the Gërdec area, as well as approximately 3,000 tons of explosive to be included in the process of ammunition elimination.

Therefore, in the so-called Action Plan for ammunition demilitarization, updated in 2012, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) has foreseen the destruction and dismantling of 83,433 tons of ordnance between 2010 and 2013.


Type of Ammunition

Ammunition Explosive





   Various    ammunitions














The Albanian government and parliament provided their support by adopting laws and measures which allowed to speed up the ammunition disposal process (such as the installation of ranges for ordnance disposal in the proximity of storage facilities) and considerably decrease the risks deriving from their presence.

In this framework, a remarkable contribution came from the main international organizations and Albania’s partner countries, especially the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United States.

The Albanian Ministry of Defense implemented important cooperation projects with the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) and with the US Department of State for the disposal of tens of thousands of ammunitions.

During the disposal process, NAMSA continuous support and assistance allowed to improve the methods to be applied, technological capabilities and safety for the staff and the surrounding environment.

Moreover, NAMSA provided important data and suggestions through its feasibility study on the industrial demilitarization of ammunition promoted by the US Department of State. The three-year Action Plan took into account such data and suggestions and the Albanian MoD deems a NAMSA involvement fundamental for its implementation.

To be valued is also the cooperation with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The UNDP contributed to the clearance and mines disposal of those areas where ammunition depots exploded during the 1997 turmoil. The cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is significant too, as some of its member countries provided equipment and devices for industrial disposal plants.

However, the most important contribution so far has been given by the Albanian military personnel. The disposal of ammunition and other excess ordnance remains a primary commitment of the AAF in pursuit of the security interests of Albania and the whole Balkans.

Action Plan 2012_AAF_Demilitarization_Excess Ammunition