Sailing Cargo Vessel Collects Plastic in the Pacific Garbage Patch
The 140-foot sailing vessel Kwai has departed the Hawaiian port of Hilo headed for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There, her crew will collect over 100 tons of plastic garbage and ghost nets.
The project is led by California-based not-for-profit Ocean Voyages Institute, and less than four days into the voyage, the crew have already removed a variety of plastic debris along with several nets. During the 45-day voyage, the crew will collect garbage with the help of satellite beacons that have been placed on nets by crowd-sourced volunteer yachts and commercial vessels.
Drones on board the Kwai enable the ship’s crew to find the debris, recover it, and store it in the ship’s cargo hold for recycling and re-purposing at the end of the voyage.
Ocean Voyages Institute collaborates with a multi-disciplinary group of NASA funded researchers (FloatEco) led by Dr. Nikolai Maximenko. The research data gathered by the vessel will contribute to understanding the dynamics of floating plastic and its interaction with open ocean marine ecosystems.
In collaboration with Dr. Luca Centurioni, Director of the Lagrangian Drifter Lab at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Ocean Voyages Institute is also deploying devices which will provide oceanographic and meteorological data used in weather forecasting, calibration of satellites and scientific research.
Ocean Voyages Institute first started its ocean clean-up initiative in 2009 and has led many successful cleanups, including most recently removing over 91,000 pounds (45.5 tons) of marine debris in the North Pacific Gyre and along coastal areas during clean-up work around the Hawaiian Islands in 2019.
The vessel Kwai’s regular business is cargo and trade under sail on routes between Hawaii, the Line Islands of Kiribati and the Northern Cook Islands.