MSC: 1,220 Tons of Debris Collected in MSC Zoe Cleanup Operation

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…As 14 Passengers Arrested for Drugs Before Rave Cruise***

Swiss-based Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) said that significant progress has been made in the clean-up operation of the debris originating from containers that fell from MSC Zoe on January 2 during heavy weather.

In total 1,220 metric tons of debris have been collected on the German and Dutch beaches since the incident, according to MSC.

“By deploying 4×4 vehicles, tractors and specialist equipment such as a beach vacuum-cleaners the response operation has achieved significant progress on the Frisian islands of Terschelling, Vlieland, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog, in the Wadden Sea and on the mainland,” the company said in the latest update.

The company has hired Ardent Global to coordinate the search at the sea. As informed, sonar-assisted search has helped locate hundreds of objects in the water in recent days and these contacts are being evaluated by MSC’s contractors and the authorities. So far, 21 entire containers were washed up.

Overall, relevant authorities and MSC have located 238 containers so far, with the majority being spread over a length of 23 miles above the Dutch municipalities Terschelling, Schiermonnikoog and east of this line.

Recovery of containers from the sea 

Dutch public works and water management department Rijkswaterstaat is working with relevant counterparts on a salvage plan of the spilled containers, which should be launched soon. However, the complex, large-scale operation aimed at salvaging the containers at sea depends upon a number of conditions, including weather, tide, shipping traffic in the busy waterway and visibility.

Two broken containers were salvaged on January 7, and there are over 40 yet to be located.

A total of 291 containers were thrown overboard by bad weather from MSC Zoe, according to the latest deck inspection data cited by Rijkswaterstaat. The containers added to the overall tally do not contain hazardous substances, based on the latest update.

Bad weather

Inclement weather is hampering the clean up operations and sonar operations scheduled for today had to be suspended pending improved weather conditions.

“This week, a storm is impacting the area being cleaned and unfortunately this will interrupt some operations. Response teams nonetheless remain vigilant and are proactively monitoring for any subsequent recharging of beaches with materials from MSC Zoe, as a result of the weather and sea movements,” MSC said.

SMART containers

Commenting on the incident, environmental organization Greenpeace, whose members have also taken part in the cleanup efforts, called on the mandatory introduction of real-time locating systems for containers transporting dangerous goods on European shipping lanes.

The call was made as it was determined that at least two of the fallen containers from MSC boxship contained hazardous substances, including dibenzoyl peroxide as well as dicyclohexyl phthalate, according to Greenpeace.

Viola Wohlgemuth, chemical expert from Greenpeace, pointed out that the technology is available, as SMART containers allow for the cargo to be located more easily at sea in case of loss.

“MSC is at the forefront of developments in the smart-containerisation of our industry and is increasingly offering smart container solutions to interested customers. However, to date, only a small proportion of the shipping industry’s global container fleet is equipped with real-time tracking devices. More research is needed to find a system that will work under a range of conditions both out of the water and in the water,” a MSC spokesperson told World Maritime News in a statement on the matter.

In the meantime, Last weekend, more than a dozen passengers waiting to board an electronic dance music (EDM) cruise were arrested in Port Canaveral for alleged possession of illicit drugs. The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and Port Canaveral conducted inspections prior to boarding, using drug-sniffing dogs, luggage searches and other methods to detect illicit substances, resulting in multiple arrests. 

The majority of the suspects received misdemeanor possession and drug paraphernalia charges. Two individuals were charged with trafficking for alleged possession of larger quantities of MDMA. 

It is the second year in a row that law enforcement personnel have made large numbers of drug-related arrests before Holy Ship! EDM cruise events. In 2018, police detained about four dozen Holy Ship! passengers from two back-to-back cruises on suspicion of drug possession, including multiple individuals who were accused of intending to sell drugs on board. 

Compared to the general population, rave attendees self-report significantly higher use rates for MDMA, ketamine and other psychoactive substances. Drugs associated with raves (notably MDMA and PMMA) have also been linked to fatalities, and EDM festivals have occasionally been canceled after drug-related deaths: in 2016, the city of Buenos Aires banned large EDM concerts altogether after five club-goers died of suspected overdoses.

Strict enforcement

In years past, a limited number of attendees for the Holy Ship! cruise have posted advice on social media forums about the best ways to smuggle banned substances onto the ship, including MDMA and marijuana. The event’s organizer discourages these discussions, and in the past it has blacklisted attendees for participating in them. 

Prior to this year’s cruises, organizers posted an advisory warning about the strict security measures in force at the terminal. “Forget about your right to privacy, you are passing through a port where all local and federal laws apply and are strictly enforced,” the organizer’s site cautioned. “Every person and each piece of luggage will be inspected by dogs trained to detect explosives and contraband.”

In a statement, vessel operator Norwegian Cruise Lines emphasized that it does not permit illicit substances on board.

“We have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to prohibited items aboard our ships, within our terminals, or at our destinations,” NCL said. “Along with the organizers of the event, we are cooperating fully with local law enforcement to ensure the welfare of all guests attending the festival.”

World Maritime News with additional report from Maritime Executive