Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has announced that operations to mitigate damage caused by a nurdle spill in the Durban harbour will continue into 2018.
Nurdles (pictured below) are pea-sized pre-production plastic pellets used to make everyday household objects such as plastic cups and paddling pools.
MSC was transporting the nurdles in two shipping containers which fell into the water when the 340-metre-long MSC Ines became grounded on October 10, 2017.
The carrier reported that the containers were “particularly vulnerable at the time” as they had been loosened for unloading.
This is in line with standard port operations procedures, but hurricane-force winds, torrential rains and flash-floods hit the port of Durban and surrounding region in what amounted to a provincial disaster.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority has attributed the cause of the incident to the unexpected severity of the storm, not to any negligence by MSC or the cargo owner.
Nick Sloane of Resolve Marine Group, a salvage and emergency response company, has led the clean-up operation.
In addition, Resolve, working with South African company Drizit Environmental, has been assessing beaches via light aircraft and drone surveillance, in vehicles and on foot, and deploying teams where appropriate to extract the nurdles.
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Due to the weather, ocean currents and tidal movements, nurdles have appeared gradually since the storm and certain beaches have been re-charged after the initial cleaning.
The clean-up teams have worked tirelessly from 4.30am each day to scour the coastline to the north and south of Durban, as far as Port Elizabeth.
Resolve and Drizit have used boat patrols, dive teams, industrial vacuums, spades and giant sieves to locate and extract the nurdles.
During the Christmas holiday period, the teams will move away from the crowds at popular beaches to be as efficient as possible.
In a statement, MSC stressed that it was continuing to treat the issue with urgency, highlighting the “important complementary role” that volunteer groups were playing by picking up nurdles and leaving them at designated collection points for Resolve and Drizit to retrieve.
It added that Resolve and Drizit were attending regular meetings with the Department of Environmental Affairs, South African Maritime Safety Authority, Transnet National Ports Authority, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and environmental groups to discuss the progress of current operations and forward planning.
MSC stated: “MSC and its insurers wish to highlight that Resolve and Drizit were engaged before any formal instruction from the South African government and that the clean-up has been led by the private sector and volunteers from the public since the beginning.
“The government has at no point criticized the response from MSC or its insurers and an October 27 directive requiring MSC to take action as the ship owner affected by the storm was issued only as a formality.
“MSC is pleased to have had some positive feedback from local communities on the quality of work being performed.”