Fortunately for the environment and for the communities affected by this large-scale pollution incident, KIMO’s Fishing for Litter fleet have been out at sea doing what they do every day – bringing the waste caught in their nets ashore. The trouble is that they are finding more waste in their nets – a lot more. Given the scale of cargo losses from the MSC Zoe accident, it is unsurprising that the quantity of Fishing for Litter waste has already seen such a sharp increase.
The fishermen who do this service from which we all benefit, do so voluntarily and we continue to be grateful for their contribution to cleaning up our seas. The Fishing for Litter project, however, does incur significant running costs. In the Netherlands alone, the operational costs for the project amount to approximately €100,000 per year. There are big bags to buy and waste processing costs to pay. What happens when the volume of waste being ‘caught’ suddenly increases due to a container ship accident? Who picks up the bill?
Mike Mannaart, Executive Secretary for KIMO Netherlands and Belgium, explains:
KIMO’s Fishing for Litter scheme in the Netherlands currently removes about 300 tonnes of litter from the ocean each year. Now consider that the MSC Zoe has lost about 9,000 tonnes in the area where the Fishing for Litter fleet operates. Already we’re seeing a huge increase in the volume of litter being brought ashore. This is set to continue for some time as the containers break up and the cargo continues to litter the seas and coastlines in the region. We urgently need extra funding otherwise we will be unable to pay the waste processors who remove this waste.
KIMO is approaching two separate parties for financial assistance: (1) MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A. (which is the world’s second-largest shipping line in terms of container vessel capacity) and (2) the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Cora van Nieuwenhoven. Mr. Mannaart who has been working tirelessly to resolve the issue draws attention to the seriousness and urgency of KIMO’s call for financial assistance:
We hope that we can reach an amicable agreement with MSC. We simply don’t have the time or the money to push for financial compensation through a lengthy legal process. We also hope that the Dutch ministry steps in to offer immediate assistance. It is well nigh impossible for a small volunteer organisation to foot the bill for a national disaster – that’s why we’re hoping that the national authority will step in to help us. We don’t have the resources to clean up for years and then to claim compensation. We need help now.
The problem can be solved by setting up a guaranteed ‘Clean Up Fund’ from which ongoing operational cleanup costs can be met. A detailed proposal has been made and we await the outcome. We trust that the shipping company and the ministry will do the right thing. KIMO and its partners have the infrastructure in place to help clean and process the litter. After all, our Fishing for Litter scheme has been running since 2001. We, together with the participating fishermen, ports and waste collectors, could become part of the solution to help cleaning MSC Zoe’s waste on the longer term as the company has pledged to do. We are very much willing to help, but we need sufficient funding for this. Together we can make it work.