Lost shipping cargo threats surfers in Kent and East Sussex

January 20, 2009 | Environment


SAS are urging recreational water users in Kent and East Sussex to take extra care when using the sea over the next few days as timber lost from the Russian owned cargo ship ‘Sinegorsk’ could be washed ashore.

The 1,500 tonnes of timber was washed off the ship and into the sea on Monday. It could yet lead to scenes reminiscent of last January when more than 2,000 tonnes of timber washed up along the Sussex coast after the Greek-registered Ice Prince sank about 26 miles south of Dorset. 

Lost shipping cargo can represent a threat to public health, cause pollution and a long-lasting litter issue. SAS is increasingly concerned about the rising impact shipping cargo loss is having on our coastline.

We are currently investigating the number of shipping containers lost each year in UK waters in an attempt to assess the ongoing damage they have on the water environment. Worldwide it is estimated as many as 10,000 shipping containers are lost overboard each year, but to date the UK Government seems reluctant to account for the number of shipping containers lost in recent years and what their loads were.

Litter tracked back to shipping container loss is a regular occurrence on the beaches close to SAS’s headquarters. Indeed SAS are still finding many of the ‘Baxters’ medical drip bags washing up in Cornwall a year after they were lost from the MV Endeavor whilst en route from Ireland to Spain.

We’re also collecting thousands of plastic resin pellets (often nicknamed mermaids tears), which have escaped into the marine environment through a combination of shipping container loss and discharge from factories into watercourses, and storm drains.

Undoubtedly bad weather can play a major part in ships losing their cargo but it can also be caused by poor loading practices and fast ‘dock turnaround’ times which can lead to shortcuts in securing cargo properly.

There is also a huge amount of pressure on ship skippers to make their destination on time. Often there is very little leeway on arrival times so ships have to plough-on into bad weather, rather than a more precautionary approach of skirting around it.

For now, SAS urge water users to be vigilant. The last thing you want to do is duck dive into ones of those sawn timber planks!

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