After two 40-foot containers slipped off a container ship into port waters during a severe storm which wreaked havoc in Durban early October, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has called for a clean up.
According to a statement recently released in Geneva, a number specialised boats and machinery are in the process of extracting the vast quantities of ‘nurdles’ (raw plastic pellets) floating in the Durban harbour following the cargo spill by the MSC Susanna .
“They each contained 990 bags of low and high density polyethylene (plastic pellets) packed in 25kg bags. The total tonnage lost is estimated to be 49 tonnes,” said Department of Environmental Affairs spokesman Zolile Nqayi.
Currently Salt Fishing South Africa, teams of workers have been deployed along a 200km stretch of the KwaZulu-Natal coastline to sieve the sand by hand in search of nurdles that have been washing up on beaches over the past two weeks
“The containers, were subsequently discovered and retrieved, continued Nqayi, but by then the bags had already leaked. The plastic pellets in their raw stage are not toxic, but once released into the marine environment they attract harmful substances (pathogens) that can have negative impacts on marine species including seabirds and turtles which mistake the pellets for food.”
Furthermore the statement notes that the spill was “undisputedly due to a natural phenomenon of extraordinary magnitude for which MSC is not at fault, MSC has taken over the clean-up of the harbour in recent days in order to expedite the process”.
“As a global marine company we have deep knowledge of how to tackle such situations and we have strong relationships with experts in the field,”
said MSC’s global public relations manager, Giles Broom.
Broom said the MSC was grateful to the members of the public who acted as first responders and helped with the initial stages of the clean-up, before the owner of the cargo of plastic pellets, the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (Sabic) appointed a specialist company, Drizit Environmental, to clean 200km of beaches.
Broom later said MSC did not expect South African taxpayers to foot the bill for the clean-up.
“MSC also continues to cooperate with Transnet National Ports Authority and all the parties involved in the clean-up are in daily contact,”
This Ocean Watch story was produced for GroundUp by www.rovingreporters.co.za working in association with the Human Elephant Foundation