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Plastic Beach Day ???? (They’re all rollin’ into one!!)

 After finding the 5th Container last night, we decided yesterday that we’d take a friends RIB out and go and check out a hot spot of nurdle activity on Lamma’s East coast. In the taxi we received a call from Marine Dept asking me to check the co-ordinates I had given them as their patrol vessel could not see any container at the location given. My heart dropped…… had I screwed up or could the container have floated off with the tide over night? We urgently launched and fueled the boat and sped off at full speed towards Beaufort Island where we had spotted the container from the heli. We reached the entrance to the bay to find a MD patrol vessel standing by, we drove straight past and into the bay, too anxious to stop. And there it was, our little beauty!! The container was about a foot underwater, but clearly visible, thank god!

After they documented it, we bid them farewell and off they went to co-ordinate with the salvage vessel. We decided to get in the water and document the wreck and see if there were are full bags we could rescue and move to high ground…..nothing but hundreds of empty white bags, undulating in the underwater current.

After collecting nurdle samples we headed off to East Lamma making a quick check of Sham Wan where Roz of Living Lamma had reported 30 bags. There were still some bags visible on the beach and we have notified FEHD who assure us they are being collected soon. Then we headed to what I have dubbed the “Nurdle Ground Zero”. Due to the rocky coastline I couldn’t moor the boat so dropped Tracey  off ashore and she went to document. I could see from her face when she returned she was shocked. When I downloaded the Go-Pro, I was too.

Our theory is that the 6th Container must be very nearby. For such a concentration of pellets, the source (container) must be nearby, otherwise they’d disperse a lot more. With the rugged rocky coastline, and after seeing what Mother Ocean can do to a 40ft Steel Container, Container 6 would have been pulverized, and the base is probably lying just offshore somewhere. Anyway that’s our assessment, we may be wrong and it may turn up somewhere else.

Today we spent the day catching up on correspondence, editing footage and getting images out to those who have requested. The media are finally picking up on it, and we believe so are the Government. We hope to see some serious action in the next few days.

I also received a call from Ocean Park, offering us assistance in any way they can. This is much needed and we hope that other NGO’s will also give us a call and pitch in.

There’s plenty enough disaster to go around, and we need all the urgent help we can get right now….

Leo Wong Ting Yuen - August 3, 2012 - 6:53 am

Hello! I am a working staff of EcoAdventure Travel Ltd and we undergo environmental education and keep promoting eco-life during the process of ecotours to schools, community centres and public.

Our guides and volunteers would like to offer help to pick up those plastic pellets on the beaches. What sort of work can we help?

Leo Wong

Christine Ho - August 3, 2012 - 8:30 am

Can you pls advise where are the 4th and 5th container? As we will be filming the plastic pellets and hopefully the containers as well on Monday. Many thanks.

Melvin LEE - August 4, 2012 - 7:34 am

Hi guys,

I feel so sad that what a plastic pollution in our beautiful Hong Kong Shore!
May I suggested using some kinds of industrial grade vacuum clean machine to suck up all the stuff?

tra - August 4, 2012 - 8:49 am

Hi Tracey,

Can I help to move the nurdles please?

Plastic Beach Day 7

Well I really don’t know quite where to start, what a bizarre day!

Morning started with Tracey, Kevin and I heading in to town for a meeting that I had called with all involved in this plastic disaster. I was growing tired of the usual nonsense that goes on when dealing with governments, where no one wants to take responsibility, or needs to “clarify and get back to you”, add to the mix ‘Agents’ representing shipping companies that have had the misfortune of losing 6 x 40ft containers overboard and “trashing Hong Kong” with billions of plastic pellets and the wheels of action turn even slower. Finally add a good dose of “Insurance” agents and the wheels seem to STOP! Hence why I called for a meeting all around one table to thrash it out face to face!

So I find myself, sitting with my two fellow eco-warriors at a large table surrounded by Government Dept representatives. Everyone was there including the Senior Management reps of Sinopec who still continue to amaze me with their genuine concern for the situation and their assistance in helping to push in the right direction when things grind to a halt. Moments later I’m designated CHAIRMAN of the meeting (after all I did arrange it all)!

Imagine that if you can, a SEA SHEPHERD chairing an environmental crisis meeting for the Hong Kong Government!!! It doesn’t get better than that…. I had a warm cheeky smile inside.

So the meeting goes on and we offer some ideas and stress our feelings of how important it is for Immediate Action. We can’t wait for insurance companies to mess around, we need to be out there now collecting the “Bags of Death” and moving them to safety. We finally convinced the Agent for the Ship Owner to give me funds to hire a helicopter and video the coastlines, so we can see where the high concentrations of sacks are, and get a general overview. Then tomorrow we can send a Rapid Reaction Team in a small boat to collect or at least move the bags to secure safety .

At the start of the day I tallied up the potential bags in the water to be 3,680! There are two containers missing, each with 1,000 bags in each. If we find them, we can account for 2,000 bags! Marine Department were convinced that they were either sunk, or had been washed out into the open ocean!

The scary thing is in the last picture…….a pleasure boat is only feet away, with everyone swimming in pellet infested water!!!!

Let’s see how tomorrow pans out when I take a RIB out to see what we can recover from some of the remote beaches…..whose up for it?

Pictures By Tracey Read.


Tania Willis - August 2, 2012 - 8:18 am

We are very grateful there are in telligent & caring people out there like Gary & Tracy. Sea Shepherd are doing invaluable work out there, all power to you. Things would be a lot worse without your quick thinking
Is the local fishing industry involved?
This will surely reduce the demand & supply for local fish?

Nick Bilcliffe - August 3, 2012 - 7:56 am

Can you email me the details of the clean-ups planned for Lamma over the weekend so I can gather people.

McGary - August 4, 2012 - 4:39 am

pls let me know anything that i can assist and help to clean up!

Plastic Beach Day 4-6

Well it’s been a hectic few days and sleepless nights, hence no blog! On Friday we met with Senior Management of Sinopec who came over for a meeting and we took them to inspect some of the affected areas. I cannot stress this enough, SINOPEC are going all out to assist in whatever way they can. They are the producers of the pellets but they sell from their factory, the minute it leaves the gates it is someone else’s responsibility, though as it does have their logo on the bags they are obviously very concerned about any negative press. They have show that when they wrote their CSR statements, in this case they actually meant it, and this has blown us all away. They recorded everything down and took batch/serial numbers etc. They then put us in touch with the Shipping Agents and have been working with the Gov’t Depts to assist where they can.

Saturday was spent on the phone and researching more.

Sunday both Tracey and I left early for Shap Long Beach in a remote spot in south Lantau, following up a report from FEHD of a beach with a 2ft wall of pellets. Upon arrival there were many pellets, but the tide must have sadly taken most of it back out so we decided to shoot the video.

Today was another day of interesting developments. After a monster overnight video editing session ending with a sunrise, we again met with Sinopec and discussed the clean up operations before taking the shipping agent around to the sites. We were then supposed to be visiting the salvage shipyard to see the recovered containers so we could check on how many sacks were still there. At first we were declined to visit, but with some gentle pursuading and a few heavily weighted options, Tracey and I were on our way with the Shipping Agents to Tsing Yi.

What we saw when we arrived was in-comprehensible. The force of Mother Nature has no limits. What she did with those containers was devastating.

Our immediate aim (besides getting as many sacks out of the water as possible) is to establish a worst case number. This hasn’t been easy. Firstly no-one can tell me straight answer to how many bags fit in the containers (1,000 sacks in a 40ft). Then when we started there were 3(three) 20ft containers missing. This then changed to 40ft containers. Last night this changed again when someone called us to say that there were 7(seven) missing in total. This was then reviewed to 6 with pellets, 1 other with something else inside(no dangerous)!

So with this information in hand we can say 6,000 sacks entered the water on the night of Monday 23rd July, 2012

From our visit to the salvage yard we have ascertained that 1(one) full container is safe, and the remaining sacks from the other three containers would make up another one full and a 20% full container. This would mean there are 2,200 sacks accounted for at the salvage yard, meaning we are still looking for 3,800 sacks.

The two remaining containers remain missing, but could turn up intact. If they are intact, then we have 1,800 sacks still in the waters of Hong Kong.

We have collected almost 280 sacks in DB alone, and with everyone else we could be up to 400 in total that we have all found.

This means that there could be somewhere between 1,400 and 3,400 sacks till un-accounted for in and around HK!!!!

The pellets themselves are harmless to humans right now, but we have been told that after 3 weeks in HK waters, they should be re- designated as a TOXIC WASTE product.

We have called a meeting of all the Government Departments and us/Sinopec to discuss clean up plan of attack! Will update again tomorrow……..

Plastic Beach Day 3

Rain didn’t stop play, as we trudged back out over the rocks to meet with Team Grey of the FEHD dept. They arrived with a boat and removed the 170+ bags (approx 80 full) from the rocks. The most amazing ladies, over 70 years old and stronger than an ox, they had away with the 25kg sack in no time over very slippery rocks even with a full Tropical Rainstorm Warning in effect. Great job FEHD!

After sending out a Sea Shepherd Hong Kong CALL TO ACTION, requesting all ocean lovers in HK to get down to their local beach and search for white sacks and report back, I received a message that some pellets were found on Peng Chau and also possibly Mui Wo. So of I went to get the inter island ferry, but alas, as soon as I got to the other side of Discovery Bay we discovered more bags on the Nim Shue Wan beach. A beach that was sack free the day before! Walking along in a torrential downpour I found another 40+ bags, just on the first beach.

Tracey then received a call from Senior Management of Sinopec who called as they wanted to come out and meet with us and inspect the bags and sites. They arrived believing we had 30 bags, and were genuinely shocked when we told them the numbers had grown somewhat to 250+.

Big thankyou to SINOPEC for taking the responsibility and coming out immediately. They kept saying sorry, sorry, sorry! This is not their fault at all, they sold the pellets to someone who obviously lost them by accident in the Typhoon 10 we just had. The worst storm in 15 years! Even though this is an accident, they should be the ones coming forward to assist with the clean up. SINOPEC are limited to what they can do, and took all batch numbers to run and find the current owner so that we can all follow up. We then took the SINOPEC guys to the beaches where we found even more bags!!!

Quote of the day: “I bet that one even has your name on it!”…….. (Gary to one of the SINOPEC managers upon discovering a white sack buried in the sand)

Mr. NG - August 4, 2012 - 2:41 am

We just see this web-page on 2012-08-04, I feel very upset, anything we can help?(everything)

Mr. & Mrs. NG

Plastic Beach Day 2

Well the day started off with research into Sinopec Petroleum. Their websites “CONTACT US” page is blank, and after trying to speak with them, both Tracey and I were hung up on! Not quite the Social Responsibility that they so heavily promote on their website. After several more call to the local media we had a meeting with Hong Kong Resorts City Management. Though the beach is a Government Beach and not really their responsibility to clean, Mr Kenneth Chan [Senior Estate Manager] offered a cleanup team for an hour to remove the full SINOPEC bags that were on the beach (19) and see what they could do with some of the higher concentrated polluted areas.

Upon arrival at the beach, I think Kenneth got a real feel for the scope of the problem. The team from HKR did an amazing job, spending the whole afternoon trying to clear up as much as possible before night fall. The FEHD (Food & Environmental Hygiene Dept) also turned up as well as the Marine Dept and the whole operation had a glimmer of hope as we started to see sand again!

With the cleanup operation in full swing, I decided to walk to the end of the beach to check out the rocks and further around the bay and into the next. Whilst on a telephone interview with the South China Morning Post, I started to find more bags! The original 30bags, became 42…..which fast became 56. Then I came around the next headland and was blown away with the extent of the problem, and now I am just hoping that reporter Cheung Chi Fai doesn’t quote me word for word. In total we are now looking at over 200 25kg bags of plastic nurdles. More than half of these bags were ripped and empty!

Last night Tracey weighed the nurdle samples and calculated approx 1 million nurdles per 25kg bag! So we are now looking at 200 million nurdles just in this small bay, and half of those are now within the eco-system! With these numbers reported to FEHD, we were informed that this has now become officially an ‘Environmental Disaster’ and now the Harbour Master of Hong Kong has taken over the running of the clean up operation with the Marine Dept!

Lets see what tomorrow brings. Fantastic support from Mr Kenneth Chan and his team from HK Resorts, FEHD, Marine Dept and EPD.

Shame on SINOPEC who will certainly not be hearing the last of this! More to follow…..

Jimbo - July 27, 2012 - 6:35 am

Great work creaning up that bay.

hkgolden son - August 3, 2012 - 9:17 pm

Because sino pec. (And other name is full own by disable Chinese mandarin communist party unlimited enterprise ) was a military P.L.A supply,so the media likes south China morning post,apply daily was not allow to report,do you understand?

S o c i a l   N e t w o r k s