It's Not Just Rubber Ducks: Container Ship Spill Prevention, Regulation, Mitigation, Environmental Impact, and Liability 

Session Chair: Chris Pallister, Gulf of Alaska Keeper

This session showcases coastal resource managers, the general marine-debris-response community, the container shipping industry, shipping insurers, and regulatory agencies will discuss container ship regulation, container spill prevention, spill mitigation response, environmental impacts, and liability issues.

At any given moment, millions of shipping containers are crossing our seas. Each year, thousands of containers are lost overboard, and very few are ever recovered.      

Plastic debris from container ships can be found throughout the world's oceans and along all of its shorelines. It is relatively rare for any shipping company to clean up the debris lost during a container spill, and it is nearly as rare for damages to be paid by the parties responsible for these spills. Time and again, shippers have directed container ships into stormy waters only to have containers swept from decks or to have entire container ships and their cargo lost. When these accidents happen on the high seas, far from any shore, they are mostly ignored. Shippers file claims, insurers pay up, and it's all just the cost of doing business. Unfortunately the debris that does not sink to the bottom eventually makes its way to shorelines where it harms wildlife and degrades sensitive coastal habitat.

There are a few well-publicized spills – the 1990 mid-Pacific Nike tennis shoes (sneakers spill) in 1990, the 1994 mid-Pacific rubber duck spill in 1994, the Atlantic Lego spill of 1997, the 2012 Gulf of Alaska COSCO Yokohama flyswatter spill, and the 2012 Hong Kong plastic nurdle spill. All of these spills are noteworthy because the resulting debris is identifiable to specific accidents and the resulting debris distribution was able to be tracked for years. Countless other spills were either unpublicized or unnoticed partly because the lost cargo was less colorful. But far more problematic are the spills known only to the shippers, insurers, and the merchants whose cargo is lost, at least until debris starts washing ashore.      

Cleanup techniques have been perfected over time, but the work is costly and there are no reliable funding streams to support it. Shippers should be held accountable for the environmental damage caused by container spills. As all shippers must be insured in order to enter major ports, they have the economic resources available to compensate for extensive environmental damages resulting from container spills.      

This technical session should explore this issue from the point of cleanup and environmental specialist, wildlife experts, shippers, insurers, and regulatory and land management agencies. Partnering with shipping entities, insurers, and the landowners whose shorelines are impacted by cargo debris is essential to preventing, mitigating, and regulating these spills.

Prevention and Removal of Abandoned and Derelict Vessels: Case Studies and Lessons Learned

Session Chairs: Nir Barnea, NOAA Marine Debris Program

Participants involved with abandoned and derelict vessels (ADV) prevention and removal will learn about ADV programs, case studies, best practices, and remaining challenges.

Abandoned and Derelict Vessels (ADVs) are a dangerous and costly global problem. ADVs obstruct navigational channels, damage ecosystems, and diminish the recreational value of the surrounding area. Some ADVs may contain fuel and hazardous materials, which could leak into the surrounding water. ADV removal is often complicated and expensive, with some vessels located in hard-to-reach areas, requiring large, specialized equipment for recovery and transportation. The wreckage may persist for years, breaking apart and creating widespread debris that threatens marine and coastal resources.

Over the years, programs were developed in the US and worldwide to prevent and remove ADVs. Legislation supported agencies’ effort to tackle the ADV problem; Vessels-turn-in programs enticed owners to hand over their dilapidated boats before they sunk; and when removal became necessary, collaborative efforts of agencies, industry, and NGOs made removal as cost effective as possible. Despite all the effort, big challenges remain. Presentations of best management practices, case studies, lessons learned, and successes and challenges will provide this session's participants with valuable information on how to best tackle the ADV problem in their area.


Challenges of community-based removal and disposal from the Bering Sea to the remote Pacific

Session Chairs: Victoria OConnell, Sitka Sound Science Center; Veronica Padula, Tribal Government of St. Paul Island

In this session, you'll hear from community members actively working to remove marine debris from rugged remote areas and the unique challenges they face with removal and costs of shipping to recycling/disposal facilities on mainland Alaska and the Lower 48.

 Removal and disposal of marine debris from remote Alaskan communities poses many challenges.       Along with the rugged terrain, some of these challenges include working in the sub-arctic environment and inclement marine weather. One of the main challenges is timing marine debris removal efforts around the retreat of sea ice from the shoreline with the arrival of nesting seabirds and marine mammals. This window of opportunity to remove debris from the shoreline is limited to spring, summer, and fall months. Additionally, being from remote communities poses logistical challenges for debris disposal. Most municipal landfills do not accept marine debris; therefore all debris collected must be shipped to mainland Alaska or the Lower 48 for disposal or recycling. The logistics and challenges of marine debris removal and disposal from small remote communities from the Bering Sea to Southeast Alaska will be explored further in this session.


State and Local Best Practices, Insights, and Innovations to the International Coastal Cleanup Day

Session Chairs: Moriah Saldana, I Love A Clean San Diego; Eben Schwartz, California Coastal Commission

State and local organizers of International Coastal Cleanup Day will discuss all levels of event coordination, including data collection as well as its impact on the community, best practices, and innovative strategies for the event. 

I Love A Clean San Diego (ILACSD), the California Coastal Commission (CCC), and other partners will join together on a panel to discuss International Coastal Cleanup Day coordination from their unique perspectives. State and local experts on the coordination of the event will cover the process of planning the event at all levels. This would include conversations on the data collection process, how the data has been used to encourage different municipalities to establish regulations that reduce the amount of marine litter, innovative ideas for the event, and the benefit of forming a constituency of volunteers that will arise to call for more to be done in their jurisdictions. 

ILACSD coordinates San Diego County’s Coastal Cleanup Day, averaging 110 unique cleanup sites, including sites in Tijuana, with 10,000 volunteers who remove 170,000 pounds of trash and debris each year. Over three quarters of these sites are inland sites, spreading awareness of how debris travels through the watershed and makes it way to our coast. With 32 years of experience planning the event, the organization has also done more to make the cleanup itself more ocean friendly by incorporating zero waste cleanups and the “Bling Your Bucket” contest, to encourage volunteers to bring reusable cleanup items. With these incentives, ILACSD has seen 75% of volunteers pledge to bring at least one reusable item to the cleanup, reducing the amount of plastic waste created by the event. San Diego County is a part of the more than 1,000 sites in California overseen by the Coastal Commission, which since the event began in 1985, has helped activate over 1.4 million volunteers, who have removed over 23 million pounds of trash from our beaches and inland waterways.

 The data and volunteerism from Coastal Cleanup Day has been instrumental in changing mindsets on the causes and impacts of marine debris. California passed a statewide ban on plastic bags in 2014 (that was upheld in 2016), due in part to how environmental organizations have educated the public on the dangers of plastic bags in our ocean and the abundance of plastic bags in litter found at the beaches. For the first time in a decade, plastic bags were not in the top ten items of debris found during the September event. The timing indicates that this is not just due to the ban on plastic bags, but also to the change in mindset as more people see the harm that plastic does to the environment first hand. Coastal Cleanup Day can ignite passion for new environmental stewards, encouraging a yearlong commitment to our open spaces and ocean. This panel will demonstrate the value of the cleanup to other nations that do not currently participate and share innovations and best practices for those that already do.

See Other Tracks: Monitoring and Citizen Science · Research and Microplastic/Microfibers · Prevention · Private Sector Collaboration, Technology, and Innovation · Education and Communication · Implementing Effective Law Regulations, and Policy · Single-Use Product Policies, Regulations and Laws · Derelict Fishing Gear ·Innovative Case Studies from Around the World