The MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company has started cleaning up Dutch sea waters, ten days after the Swiss-based firm lost nearly 300 containers from one of its largest cargo vessels in a storm.
“The clean-up will likely take months,” Dutch water authorities spokesman Edwin de Feijter said on Saturday. “The largest part of the debris has been located, but there are still parts missing.”
More than 250 containers, some holding hazardous chemicals, fell off one of the world's largest container ships, the MSC Zoe, on January 2 in German waters near the island of Borkum during a North Sea storm.
Two salvage ships left the harbour at IJmuiden, near Amsterdam, on Friday, heading towards a container north of the tiny Rottumerplaat island, which is blocking an important shipping route between Germany and the Netherlands.
Work was planned to start at midday on Saturday, but rough weather looked set to delay the operation, De Feijter said, adding that 238 objects had been identified in the water so far.
“Those objects are not all entire containers, they can also be part of the cargo lost from broken ones,” he was quoted by the Reuters news agency.
Seventeen containers washed up on shore on several Dutch islands, with the debris of many others littering the islands' beaches.
MSCexternal link, the world’s number two container shipping group, on Wednesday said it had made significant progress on the Dutch islands, with a total of 1,220 tons of debris collected so far.
The company thanked local authorities and municipalities as well as voluntary helpers for their support and warned bad weather could delay the clean-up.
Dutch authorities last week said they would hold MSC liable for the cost of cleaning up the waters.
Roughly 100 soldiers joined the clean-up operation last week, while local authorities and volunteers had already gathered up tons of waste from several kilometres of coastline.
MSC is the world's second-largest shipping line in terms of container vessel capacity and it operates in all major ports of the world. Its headquarters are in the Swiss city of Geneva, a landlocked country in heart of Europe.
swissinfo.ch with Reuters/ug