Three year nurdles mess clean-up draws to an end; SAMSA

However, even with 38 of 49 metric tons of the plastic pellets recovered, monitoring will continue for four more years.

SAMSA

Pretoria: 29 March 2021

With about 38 metric tons of the approximately 49 MT of nurdles that accidentally fell off a cargo ship and into seawaters off the coast of Durban in 2017 now recovered, the three years clean-up operation of approximately 290 kilometres of coastline since launched has officially been brought to an end, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) has announced.

According to SAMSA, the decision to end the three year clean-up operation – taken in consultation with various other interested and involved parties including the Department of Environment, Fisheries and Forestry (DEFF) KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) – was made on the basis that the residue of nurdles lately observed through monitoring of affected areas, had become negligible and therefore no longer justified continued recovery.

In addition, crucially, the high- and low-density polyethylene pellets were not only found to be non-hazardous, but it had also been established that they had not caused any known or reported damage or harm either to the ecology of the heavily affected area nor to living mammals both inland and at sea.

However, according to SAMSA, monitoring of the South African coastline along the KwaZulu-Natal province will continue for four more years and in the event of a resurfacing of enough quantities of the plastic nurdles, if necessary, another recovery operation will be instituted.

The formal official cessation of the clean-up operation, according to SAMSA – the coordinator of the operation – comes after more than 160 bags of the nurdles, measuring some 38.8MT in weight, were successfully recovered over the three-year period since the accidental spillage occurred in the second half of 2017.

The spillage into sea of the millions of small nurdles in 25-kilogram bags drew domestic and global attention after they were ripped off their transportation containers into the Durban harbour during a massive wind that wreaked havoc on ships in the Durban harbour on 10 October 2017.

Two of the lost containers, off the MSC Susana vessel, were loaded with the nurdles cargo. The nurdles involved, regarded as non-biodegradable, were described as small plastic pellets of about five (5) millimetres in diameter, with a flotation density of 0.91-0.97 grams per cubic centimetre (g/cmᵌ).

Shortly after the incident, SAMSA together with the DEFF, the KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), Transnet, environmental groups including Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, vessel owners, MSC, London based International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd (ITOPF), salvage and emergency group, Resolve Marine; as well as various other parties, launched an extensive and intensive recovery project of the plastic nurdles all along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline, but with specific focus on a 290km area of the coast where the pellets found concentration.

The aim of the clean-up operation according to SAMSA, was three-fold (a) to reduce impact on human life, (b) to recover the pellets as quickly as possible (c) and to minimize impact on the environment.

The clean-up operation reliant partly on a scientific modelling to hopefully accurately predict movement of the pellets, would therefore essentially also involve an inspection of almost the entire South African oceans coastline, from Richards Bay through to the Western Cape.

According to SAMSA, the coastline inspection found evidence of nurdles presence in some of the areas, particularly in the Western Cape and some areas of the Eastern Cape. However, the nurdles found here were established to have come mainly from industrial waste discharges rather that from the Durban port ship incident in question. In other areas such as Port St Johns on the Wild Coast, concentrations were very low.

SAMSA says that with concerns also related to ocean currents movements along the Indian Ocean, the pellets might end up polluting the seas along other countries as far as Australia, enquiries were made. But these elicited no clear evidence of such widespread dispersion or leakage over the last three years.

Instead, after both aerial and land inspections, the greatest concentration of the nurdles deposition was found to have occurred largely just north of the Durban port city in an area of coastal high dune concentrations, inshore reefs and beaches as well as river mouths incorporating Addington, Port Dunford, Dokodweni, the Tugela River through to uMhlathuze towards Richards Bay.

SAMSA said final reports of monitoring and recovery by some of its participating partners, the DEFF, the KZZ EDTEA and ITOPF late last year, indicated that “the affected areas have received relatively low levels of recharge of SABIC plastic nurdles and, applying the ‘law of diminishing returns’, all recovery operations on all affected areas to be ceased.”

SAMSA and its partners in the operation would continue to “keep an ear and eye on the ground” for any possibility of nurdles resurfacing, and where deemed necessary, action will be taken to recover them.

Asked what has been done with the recovered 38,8MT of nurdles; SAMSA said these were recycled and used to make park benches dedicated to the late Ms Caroline Reid formerly a secretary of KwaZulu-Natal’s Marine Waste Network. Ms Reid reportedly passed away in July 2018 after being involved a vehicle accident in Durban. She was 41 years old at the time.

Captain Nicholas Stone. Director: Marine Resolve Group

Meanwhile, it has emerged that following to the Durban port nurdles spillage incident, the South African government through the Department of Transport, SAMSA and DEFF is being urged by shipping transport industry players to support a call on the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to review shipping containers stowage such as that of plastic nurdles, and where possible, require that such cargo be relocated to the underdeck of cargo spaces of ships.

Parties to the call in South Africa include Resolve Marine whose executive, Mr Nicholas Sloane confirmed his company’s approach to the IMO about the matter.

According to Mr Sloane, prevention of loss at sea of material such as nurdles from ship’s cargo due to sea conditions and related accidents can be achieved with proper, purposeful stowage aboard vessels. This, he says, is necessary also because generally, seafarers manning cargo vessels are not always aware of contents of containers being transhipped.

“With over 3 000 containers lost in the oceans every so often, nurdles are the worst cargo to be lost.” says Mr Sloane.

End.

Durban port clean-up underway after massive floods debris – TNPA

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A photo showing the debris that swamped the Durban port after major rains caused flooding in the area over the last few days. Clean-up is now currently underway according to the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA). (Photos supplied by TNPA)

Pretoria: 25 April 2019

A major clean-up of the Durban port is now fully underway following to a  deluge of tons of debris – mostly plastic – that swamped the port due to heavy rains and flooding that affected the area over the last few days.

This is according to the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) in a statement issued in Durban on Thursday. The statement reads as follows:

dbn port clean up 1.jpg

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) at the Port of Durban has commenced a major clean-up to remove the large volume of waste and vegetation from the port after the recent heavy rains and flooding in KwaZulu-Natal.

The adverse weather caused the usual deluge of plastic and other debris to flow into the port, leaving behind an unsightly scene just days after World Earth Day was observed globally on 22 April.

Acting Durban Port Manager, Nokuzola Nkowane, said all Transnet Operating Divisions were carrying out assessments to establish the full extent of damage caused by the storm.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected by the recent heavy rains and flooding. We would also like to appeal to the public to please help curb plastic pollution as this causes huge problems when the debris flows into the harbour,” she said.

She said the port’s pollution control teams were on site tackling the debris within port waters, aided by clean-up teams from SpillTech, Drizit and ZMK Enterprises. Progress is slow due to the sheer volume of material that still continues to wash in.

dbn port clean up.jpgThe debris included large logs that posed a threat to the safe navigation of the harbour craft which are used to guide vessels safely in and around the port. The port has been fully operational however, the ingress of waste impacted on vessel movements and as of midday on Wednesday three vessels were unable to berth or sail in the Maydon Wharf precinct, Nkowane confirmed.

“The combined catchment area of the rivers, canals and storm-water drainage systems that drain into the port is over 200km2 in size. The unfortunate reality is the port waters are on the receiving end of the large volume of litter, effluent and sewage that is discharged into the storm-water reticulation system within the catchment,” said Nkowane.

dbn port clean up 2“We must all take responsibility for the well-being of the ocean and coastal environment, and as TNPA we want to help create awareness and promote sustainable practices for the benefit of present and future generations,” she said.

TNPA has been in regular engagements with the eThekwini Municipality regarding the interventions required to address the ingress of waste and effluent into the port from the municipal stormwater network which drains a significant portion of the Durban metropolitan area.

The port’s pollution control department shared the following tips for the public to help in tackling the massive plastic problem:

  • Avoid single-use plastic, which is any plastic item used only once, such as plastic straws and plastic packaging. Plastic is a material that lasts for hundreds of years, yet is often used for only a short time before it is discarded.
  • Get into the habit of recycling and avoid throwing away recyclable items as part of your normal weekly refuse disposal. Items that can and should be recycled include glass, cardboard and paper, tin and aluminium cans (for example from canned food and cool drink), certain plastics such as bottles for drinks and cleaning products. Items should be rinsed before being put into a recycling bin.
  • Get involved in clean-ups, such as those arranged by #CleanBlueLagoon, KZN Beach Clean Up and Durban Bay Cleanup.
  • Observe environmental days such as World Earth Day on 22 April (held under the theme ‘End Plastic Pollution’ in 2018), National Marine Week in the second week of October (under the theme ‘Plastic is Drastic’ in 2018) and World Environment Day on 5 June (under the theme “Beat Plastic Pollution” in 2018)
  • Support organisations such as Durban Green Corridors, Durban Partnership against Plastic Pollution (D-PAPP) and Greenpeace Africa which help to fight plastic and other pollution.

Ends

Durban port ship collision: SAMSA to investigate.

Durban port
Durban port. For illustration only (SAMSA file photo)

Pretoria: 15 April 2018

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) confirmed on Sunday an investigation underway into the collision of a ship and a tug at the port of Durban at the weekend.

According to the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), the collision occurred on Friday between a car carrier vessel and an inactive tug. No one was injured in the accident, said TNPA spokesperson, Ms Ayanda Somagaca

“On the morning of Friday, 13 April 2018, Transnet National Ports Authority (Port of Durban) was notified that a car carrier vessel, CSCC ASIA, operated by Hoegh Autoliners, had collided with the inactive tug Inyalazi while berthing alongside at the R-Shed in the port’s Point Precinct.

“No injuries were reported as there were no employees on board the tug Inyalazi. Damage occurred to the quayside and the tug sustained a hole on its side which has resulted in an ingress of water into the tug. Tug Umbilo was deployed to the site with a salvage pump to remove the water from Inyalazi.

“Divers and Port of Durban marine crew were on site to closely assess the extent of the damage for the purposes of blocking water from entering the tug. SAMSA arrived at the scene to assess the damage to the Tug and the Commercial Vessel,” said Ms Somagaca

She said operations at the port were running as normal and that the car carrier vessel had been able to continue with its operations while the tug would be moved a dry dock for repairs.

In Durban on Sunday, SAMSA’s Captain Saroor Ali, confirmed that an investigation by the agency was underway to determine the cause of the accident.

“Investigation is in progress and the cause leading to the incident can only be determined on concluding the investigation which involves statements from the ship and tug boat crew and relevant eyewitness personnel.

“SAMSA accident investigations guided by the South African Merchant Shipping Act, are conducted to ascertain the factors contributing to the accident, give recommendations so as to avoid re-occurrence,” said Captain Ali.

End

Plastic pellets clean up along Durban coastline now fully underway: SAMSA

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Durban: 30 October 2017

A massive, painstaking and possibly long term clean up of the coastline for miles north and south of Durban to rid it of very tiny pellets that have polluted the area since the blistering rainstorm of 10 October 2017 and which left the port city with a repair bill worth an estimated R600-million, is now fully underway.

This is according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) a State agency charged with among other things, the environmental sound integrity of the country’s oceans.

DSC_1983.JPGAs of Monday 30 October 2017, teams of workers have been hard at work since about a week ago retrieving the tiny pellets from the coastline sand in Durban with hope to reduce as much as is possible the float of the nurdles.

This followed a SAMSA directive to shipping group, the Mediterranean Shipping Company – operators of a shipping vessel from which the damaged containers carrying the cargo were lost and apparently deposited at sea – to conduct an assessment of the scale of pollution caused following the loss of cargo into the water in Durban harbour during the torrential natural disaster rainstorm that took place in earlier October .

On October 10, the day of the rainstorm, SAMSA and the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) had to prioritize the refloating and remooring of five drifting vessels and three of which had grounded in the port due to the extraordinary weather conditions characterized by very strong winds and rain.IMG_8083.JPGFrom the day onward, SAMSA supported by TNPA had been actively involved in containing and minimizing the impact of the damage caused in the Durban harbour.

On the day, two damaged shipping containers that had fallen into the harbour waters were secured and retrieved as soon as available resources had been successfully deployed on the five storm affected vessels.

Containment measures were implemented as soon as it was discovered that at least one of the fallen containers had held bags of plastic pellets. A while later, several bags were retrieved within the port waters and a clean-up operation was implemented by the Port Pollution Control department.

Later, sounding surveys were conducted by TNPA’s Dredging Services division supported by divers and drones, and which found no further obstructions or obstacles on the seabed within the port limits  The port was declared safe for navigation on 13 October.

The port authority’s ongoing clean-up operations within port limits had also been targeting a significant inflow of waste that had discharged into the port from Umbilo, Amanzimnyama and Umhlatuzana Rivers, as well as the municipal stormwater system.

DSC_2004.JPGHowever, in the next few days a mixture of high and low density plastic cargo has been found in some parts of the ocean.

SAMSA Chief Operating Officer Sobantu Tilayi said MSC cooperated with the authorities for the clean-up operation which started a week ago, conducted surveillance and assessment of the extent of pollution in Durban harbour and the affected coastal areas.

Later SAMSA also met with the Durban Harbour Master and Pollution Control department, the Department of Environmental Affairs, and KZN Provincial Government, and KZN Wildlife.

From these meetings, Mr Tilayi indicated that SAMSA would undertake the monitoring and oversight role of the process while MSC would consult with the cargo owners for the technical details of the pollutant plastics.

He said area surveys of beaches up to Umhlanga on North Coast and Umkomas on the South Coast beaches was conducted by a service provider accompanied by SAMSA.

Mr Tilayi said: “A team to assess the extent of damage has traveled northwards and south wards. Local municipalities will be kept informed to enable surveillance team to access beaches.”

In the meantime on the direction of SAMSA, Drizit Environmental, was appointed and is leading the clean-up operation. On the weekend of 28 October 2017 strong winds interrupted the operation. However, favorable  weather conditions prevailed on the Monday, 30 October 2017, and teams were back at work, cleaning the Durban beaches.

On Monday, Captain Hopewell Mkhize, a Principal Officer in the Durban SAMSA office said the clean up might take a while yet, hopefully with no severe interruptions by windy conditions. According to Capt Mkhize, windy conditions, such as was experienced on Sunday, 29 October 2017 were not useful as the tiny pellets simply blew away along with the sand.

For more comment from Capt Mkhize, click on the video.

Meanwhile, the SAMSA appointed  environmental cleanup company, Drizit, has established a central collection point for the nurdles at Durban Ski Boat Club (79 Browns Rd, Point, Durban) where the pellets may be dropped off.

Drizit can be contacted on their 24- hour toll free line 0800 202 202.

End