AP Moller-Maersk is stepping up its efforts to help rid the oceans of plastic waste in an extended partnership with Dutch non-profit organisation The Ocean Cleanup.

The move will see sensors placed on the Danish giant's vessels worldwide — and more logistics support for existing operations.

Mette Refshauge, vice president of corporate communications and sustainability at Maersk, told TradeWinds that the cooperation started in 2018 when Maersk Supply Service supplied an anchor-handling tug supply ship to test out new collection systems. The Maersk subsidiary also provided project management and logistics expertise.

"It's such an amazing mission that they have," she said. "The sea is the workplace of our seafarers, so we found their approach interesting and bold."

Refshauge added that group AHTS units have been helping catch the plastic and drag it from the Pacific, as well as using sensors to locate where the waste is.

"We are now taking the concept from the oceans to the rivers that are carrying the trash from the land to the sea. So there is new technology we need to develop," she said.

The Dutch company uses a "circular approach", Refshauge said, turning the "trash into treasure" by recycling the potentially ruinous catch.

She added that the next phases of the project will see sensors fitted on to the huge boxship fleet, which will also be available to help transport the waste.


Mette Refshauge is vice president of corporate communications and sustainability at Maersk. Photo: Maersk

"This is super-motivating for everyone in Maersk," Refshauge said. "It's something that resonates very well with what the population associates with Maersk."

The ultimate goal is reaching a 90% reduction of floating ocean plastic by 2040.

Three of Maersk Supply Service's AHTS ships — the 14,900-hp Maersk Transporter (built 2009), 17,500-hp Maersk Handler (built 2002) and 23,480-hp Maersk Launcher (built 2010) — have been trialling systems in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the North Sea.

The first collection of plastic waste was turned into new, fully recycled products in autumn 2020.

Logistics help on offer

Maersk logistics support will include worldwide shipment from different locations, as well as air freight, customs clearance and warehouse and storage management.

"We will have a transport and supply chain manager fully embedded in The Ocean Cleanup's office in Rotterdam," Refshauge added.

"That programme manager will serve as the single channel for them to engage with the full range of Maersk's supply chain and transport services globally and will help The Ocean Cleanup to develop their own supply chain management capacity over time."

Robin Townley, head of special project logistics at Maersk, said: "What better way to map the oceans than to harness one of the world's largest fleets?"