Small Arms and Light Weapons Project in Albania

07 May 2014

Over the past four years, General and Cooperative Services Programme (LB) has been assisting Albania dispose of over 11,500 tonnes of surplus ammunition at a factory in central Albania through a NATO Trust Fund Project.

In late 2013, the US State Department sponsors asked NSPA to include a separate but related project to destroy up to 100,000 Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW).  Removing this quantity of surplus weapons assists the MoD in its defence modernisation programme by reducing the number of storage depots and reduces the risk of proliferation and illegal use - around 30,000 of these weapons had been collected by the police from the civil population during unrest in Albania in the late 1990’s.

Because of NSPA’s knowledge of the Government owned facilities in Albania suitable for the destruction of SALW, a contract was put in place within 2 months and work started shortly afterwards.  The Gramsh factory used to be a key weapons manufacturing site at the height of Albania’s rearmament programme in the 1960’s and 70’s but had largely fallen into disrepair by 2010.  The Eur 270,000 project has provided for some simple refurbishment of buildings and the procurement of some equipment but the bulk of the funds will be for the employment of staff from the local town where there are few other employment opportunities.

The SALW are delivered to Gramsh by the Army, checked for safety and the serial numbers recorded before they are dismantled and the parts cut or crushed to ensure they cannot be used later.  The materials are segregated and those with commercial value, such as steel and brass, are sold, whilst others such as wood and leather, are burnt as a co fuel in the factory heating system.

SALW destruction started in early March 2014 after a period of staff training.  The target of 100,000 weapons should be completed by October this year.