Hundreds of volunteers on the beaches and in boats are working to clean up the waters and beaches in the Wadden region in the north over this weekend, and multiple criminal investigations have begun in the Netherlands and Germany. Here is an overview of the latest developments on the islands.
UPDATE: 2:53 p.m., Saturday, 5 January
The Leeuwarder Courant is reporting that the total number of containers which fell overboard is now 287, and that the shipping company operating the MSC Zoe has promised to cover the costs of the clean-up.
Schiermonnikoog is one of the inhabited islands, but it also has some of the largest natural wooded areas and wide beaches. On Saturday, the island still had considerable debris on its sands, including lightbulbs, plastic, children’s jackets and towels. Two sacks of the hazardous organic powdered peroxide have been found on the island, and an additional 278 are still unaccounted for in the water: previous reports that three containers of the peroxide were missing were incorrect. There is only one container known to have fallen overboard, but there is also one container of lithium ion batteries which is unaccounted for. Around 100 soldiers will be present on the island throughout the weekend to help out, and may move to the other islands if need be. The ferry for the morning service to the island was full of volunteers coming to pitch in.
— Tjitske (@Tjitske_J) January 5, 2019
Around 20 Frisian and Groningen-based shrimp boats set out on Saturday morning to retrieve containers that were still above water, but the ships have to stay out of wildlife reserve areas in the seas of the Wadden and North Sea. Other areas in the Wadden Sea where items have washed ashore include the Engelsman sand bank, where five containers have turned up, and Het Rif, another sand bank where at least 75 refrigerators have been salvaged. On Saturday, a team of biologists and seal experts headed to Het Rif to clean it up.
Vlieland mayor Tineke Schokker encouraged volunteers to travel to other islands on Saturday where their help was more needed. Vlieland’s beaches were largely clear of debris, but the dunes are still being combed for items spilled from the MSC Zoe. The Doeksen ferry company had stopped their “clean-up return ticket” sales to Vlieland on Friday, but the sales will resume if it turns out that a large quantity of goods wash ashore again.
— De Zee Kust (@dezeekust) January 5, 2019
The area of Rottums includes three protected and uninhabited islands: Rottumeroog, Rottumerplaat and Zuiderduin. The three islands are home to plenty of wildlife, and the Public Works and Water Management department and the Dutch Forest Rangers coordinated an effort on Saturday to clean up the islands with a tractor on the beaches.
On Saturday morning, the northern beaches of Terschelling were once again full of plastic. Mayor Bert Wassink had said on Friday that there was not enough to do for the volunteers and members of the military to do, but the new high tide spread a debris field from kilometre marker pole 3 through 28.
Ook met een gure wind maken deze bikkels de stranden van #Terschelling schoon. Hulde aan de vrijwilligers!! #cleanupwadden #waddencleanup @TomGrijsen @denoordzee @waddentweets @Natuurmonument pic.twitter.com/5RVcgMWJ6V
— Wereld Natuur Fonds (@wnfnederland) January 5, 2019
Groningen and Friesland mainland coastline
The Styrofoam which has littered the sea dike near Moddergat can actually be ground down and reused as packing materials. Dumpsters have been brought to the coastline in Noardeast-Fryslân for volunteers on the mainland to dump their filled bags.
There was relatively little new debris on Ameland on Saturday morning, according to mayor Gerard van Klaveren. The main clean-up efforts were concentrated on the eastern side of the island, and other individuals were spreading out across the rest of the island.
— Robert (@screppie) January 5, 2019
This German island was initially believed to be the area where the MSC Zoe began losing its containers, but the high volume of containers which have washed ashore on the Dutch side have led the Coast Guard to suspect that the container spills may have begun in Dutch waters. As of Friday, only one container and around 20 televisions had been found on the island.
Although every other island along the Wadden Sea has been significantly impacted by the container spill, the island of Texel, which is north of Den Helder, has seen very little debris on its beaches.
|Criminal investigation into the MSC Zoe container spill
The Dutch Maritime Police and the Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate will be conducting a criminal investigation into the container spill. The main focus of the investigation will be to determine whether the damage caused by the spill is the result of criminal conduct and negligence. The Dutch Public Prosecutor is also investigating the spill in an effort to determine who is ultimately responsible for the accident. German authorities are carrying out an investigation as well.
The 287 containers which fell overboard from the MSC Zoe this week are believed to have been transporting around 13.5 million euros worth of cargo. The area where the spill occurred, the German Bight, is an infamously tricky area for the maritime industry: on average, 150 containers are lost at sea in the area annually. By comparison, around 10,000 containers fall overboard in transport globally each year.
Photo source: Dutch Coast Guard