On September 8, Maersk Supply Service’s anchor handling tug supply vessel Maersk Launcher sailed from San Francisco to install The Ocean Cleanup’s System 001 in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). The system will initially be placed 250 nautical miles offshore for a two-week trial before being towed to the GPGP, 1,200 nm from San Francisco. The campaign will last about 60 days.
Founded by Boyan Slat, Netherlands-based The Ocean Cleanup estimates there are over 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 tonnes in the GPGP—and it’s rapidly getting worse. Boyan Slat’s team went about designing, building and launching a 100-km-long floating structure, able to remove 42% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’s plastic pollution over a period of 10 years. (Read NauticExpo e-magazine’s background article here).
To undertake System 001’s installation and monitoring, Maersk Launcher was released from charter by DeepGreen, which will share the cost with A.P. Møller-Maersk. The US $2 million backing also includes transporting installation equipment from the UK and Denmark to San Francisco, as well as providing containers to be used for the return of collected plastic. Watch a video here.
TOC spokesman Joost Dubois told NauticExpo e-magazine:
Maersk Launcher got under way on schedule. The 14-day trial will test the system’s operational stability. After that, it will take 2-3 weeks to sail to the GPGP, where the system will start to collect plastic.
Maersk Launcher will remain stationary as an observation vessel for several weeks before returning to port. Plastic extraction may not have started when Maersk Launcher returns to port, that will likely be done by another vessel with a fresh rotation crew.
As to the challenges TOC faces, Dubois noted: “Initially, System 001’s operational stability, then its plastic-capturing behaviour—several weeks after arrival in the patch—and its mechanical survivability in the North Pacific’s high seas conditions.”
TOC’s long-term ambition is to install a fleet of at least 60 floating screens in the GPGP.
Maersk Supply Service CEO Steen Karstensen commented:
Large towing operations have been a part of our work-scope for decades. It’s rewarding to support solving such an important environmental issue.
Read more about slashing plastic pollution in the oceans in our issue #20.