Removing plastic from the Pacific Ocean

Published by Jesper Toft Madsen on 16 August 2018

A.P. Moller - Maersk is providing marine support to The Ocean Cleanup organisation by installing a pilot clean-up system in the Pacific. The project marks the world’s first major initiative for collection of plastic from the ocean.

The Ocean Cleanup technology explained

Global plastic production has risen steadily since the 1950’s with over 5 trillion pieces of plastic currently estimated to be littering all the major ocean basins. The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organisation and globally recognised frontrunner in reducing plastic pollution, has developed a 600m long floating buoy system with a screen to collect plastic debris for recycling.

In September 2018, the first offshore cleaning system will be installed by Maersk Supply Service’s AHTS vessel, Maersk Launcher, in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), located 1200 nautical miles off the coast of San Francisco.

It is rewarding to see that our marine capabilities can be utilised within new segments, and to support solving the important environmental problem with plastics in the oceans.

Steen S. Karstensen, CEO of Maersk Supply Service
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“We are truly proud to be supporting the first installation of The Ocean Cleanup System. Large towing operations have been a part of Maersk Supply Service’s work-scope for decades. It is rewarding to see that our marine capabilities can be utilised within new segments, and to support solving the important environmental problem with plastics in the oceans,” says Steen S. Karstensen, CEO of Maersk Supply Service.

Low-speed sea trial

The system will be towed at low speed, 250 nautical miles offshore for a sea trial before towage to the installation location at the GPGP. In addition to the towing and installation, Maersk Supply Service will monitor the Cleanup System 001. Total duration of the campaign is expected to be 60 days.

“Part of Maersk Supply Service’s strategy is to diversify our business and use our technical capabilities in new areas outside traditional oil and gas. With new partnerships in deep sea mineral recovery with DeepGreen, developing innovative installation solutions for the wind turbines with Vestas Wind Systems, and now the collaboration with The Ocean Cleanup, we are taking tangible steps in this direction,” says Steen S. Karstensen.

As a responsible maritime operator, we are committed to ensuring that the oceans can remain a healthy environment for generations to come.

Claus V. Hemmingsen, Vice CEO of A.P. Moller - Maersk and CEO of the Energy division​
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The installation of the first clean-up system is partly funded by A.P. Moller - Maersk and DeepGreen. Currently, DeepGreen has Maersk Launcher on charter and has released it to perform the operation for the Ocean Cleanup.

Ensuring a healthy environment

The total contribution is around USD 2m in vessel services and equipment which also includes providing transportation of equipment needed for the installation of Cleanup System 001, from the UK and Denmark to San Francisco, as well as providing open top containers for the collected plastic.

“A. P. Moller - Maersk contributes to the protection of the ocean environment through enhancing the sustainability of all our activities both at sea and on land,” says Claus V. Hemmingsen, Vice CEO of A.P. Moller - Maersk and CEO of the Energy division.

“In addition to always taking great care that our operations do not pollute the oceans with plastic, we are also very pleased to take part in the world’s first major collection of plastics from the ocean. As a responsible maritime operator, we are committed to ensuring that the oceans can remain a healthy environment for generations to come,” he adds.

The Ocean Cleanup’s long-term ambition is to install at least 60 systems to remove 50% of the 80,000 tonnes of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years.

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The Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organisation, developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. By utilising the ocean currents to its advantage, the passive drifting systems are estimated to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years.