MOL, NYK clamp down on microplastics

 Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) plans to install a microplastic collection device on a newbuilding woodchip carrier that will be delivered in 2022 and sail under a charter contract with Marusumi Paper.

Microplastics are small particles less than 5 millimeters in diameter that are formed from plastic debris discharged into the ocean due to the effects of UV radiation and waves, and are feared to affect not only ocean pollution but also the ecosystem.

Marine plastic waste remains in the sea for an extended period of time, causing grave concerns about global-scale environmental pollution.

microplastics samples
Courtesy of Chiba Institute of Technology

Due to its small size, it is difficult to collect, and the actual situation of contamination is still unclear.

The microplastic collection device is being developed by MOL and Miura Co. It is activated during operation of the ballast water treatment system, with the assumption that collection takes place during cargo handling operations.

Using a filter with a backwashing function, which constitutes the ballast water treatment system, the device collects microplastics trapped in the filter right before the treated water is discharged overboard.

MOL installed the first device for a demonstration test announced in October 2020. Since then, the device has been installed on three bulk carriers, making this wood chip carrier the fifth vessel so equipped.

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The project is aimed at improving the device and examining ways to make it easier for crewmembers to use and increase microplastic collection capacity.

Meanwhile, MOL’s counterpart NYK said that it had collected 100 samples at 100 locations in a survey of microplastics collections over a wide range of the ocean.

The company has been collecting the samples since last year.

Namely, in March 2020, NYK signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chiba Institute of Technology (CIT) to use a ship to collect and analyze microplastics in oceans around the world in an effort to create a solution to marine plastic pollution.

“Since we started sampling from three vessels in March 2020, we have steadily expanded the number of vessels and achieved our goal of 100 samples at 100 locations, which we set together with Associate Professor Kameda of CIT throughout the year,” the company said.

As disclosed, the samples will be analyzed in CIT’s laboratory to help study the composition and concentration of microplastics floating in oceans around the world.

The analyzed data will be integrated into the “Worldwide Microplastic Map” produced by CIT.

NYK added that it plans to increase the number of survey targets, locations, and items as part of its ESG strategy.