‘A HEALTHY FUTURE FOR MY GRANDCHILDREN’
There is enough plastic in the world’s oceans to cover entire continents. Every year, the oceans collect another eight billion kilos. In 2012, Delft student Boyan Slat decided to do something about this problem. He designed an installation with long floating arms that gather and hold on to plastic until a ship comes to pick it up. More than five years later, The Ocean Cleanup is now ready to be tested. Captain George Zwart contributed to a pilot along the coast of the Netherlands.
‘We are poisoning our earth and ourselves.’ Captain George Zwart was born in 1956 and has sailed for many decades. So, the onset of this plastic soup is something he witnessed first-hand. ‘We are located just above the northern edge of all the plastic’, he explains. ‘In Northern Europe you still see small boats fishing the plastic out of the harbour and rivers. But the further south you go… I once sailed along the French coast through a thick stream of plastic that was flowing straight out of a river. Really crazy! So, being able to make a contribution to the pilot felt really good!’
The Marilyn M was selected for the pilot: a multicat from GSS Marine Services B.V. from Maassluis. George worked together with two other guys via TOS: an Able Seaman and a Chief Engineer. The goal of the pilot is to test the sustainability of the system. In practice, the installation’s arms will be stretched out on the ocean and will have to withstand heavy weather conditions. The pilot, located fifteen miles west of Scheveningen, consisted of different phases. ‘On the first day, we conducted a towing test. The sail was fastened behind the ship and weighted to keep it hanging down. While sailing, there are all kinds of forces coming from different directions. Our speed was faster than initially intended in order to simulate bad weather. The sea was just too smooth!
The big question
On the second day, the system was installed on the previously positioned anchors. Boskalis had set out buoys earlier to mark the anchors’ locations. ‘We fixed the cylinders with sails to the buoys with rope. We worked closely together with the people of The Ocean Cleanup. Sympathetic and smart people who definitely know what they’re doing.’ However, George is left wondering if it will make a difference. ‘I hope that it proves to be a solution in some shape or form. For now, we are fighting a losing battle because there is so much plastic being dumped into the sea. But if we’re going to address that issue as well, I have full confidence that they will be successful with this system. For a healthy future for my grandchildren!’