Maersk Supply Service has agreed to provide support to The Ocean Cleanup, the Dutch non-profit that hopes to use a long floating net to collect and remove plastic from the North Pacific.
The system is comprised of a 3m-deep skirt attached to a 600m-long buoyant tube. As the current moves the u-shaped system across the ocean, pieces of plastic debris will collect in the centre of the net. Every few months, a vessel will be dispatched to collect the accumulated plastic and take it back to land for processing.
On 8 September, Maersk Supply Service’s anchor handling tug supply vessel, Maersk Launcher, will deploy the system 250 nautical miles (nm) offshore for a two-week sea trial. Upon the pilot’s successful completion, the vessel will tow the net to the site of the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, around 1,200nm off the coast of San Francisco.
“Large towing operations have been a part of Maersk Supply Service’s work-scope for decades,” says Steen S. Karstensen, the company’s CEO. “It is rewarding to see that our marine capabilities can be utilized within new segments, and to support solving such an important environmental issue.”
The Ocean Cleanup’s long-term ambition is to install a fleet of at least 60 of its floating screens in order to remove half of the 80,000 tonnes of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch every five years.
However, scientists have expressed concern about the efficacy of the system because plastic debris can also be found at depths much lower than the net will trawl through. It’s also possible that small marine species, which float passively through the water, will be unable to avoid the system.