60 per cent of plastic pellets spilled from freighter recovered, official says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 2:40am


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About 60 per cent of the 150 tonnes of plastic pellets that spilled into the sea from a freighter during Typhoon Vicente in July have been recovered, the Marine Department said yesterday.

Senior marine officer Ivan Shuen Chi-keung gave the update in response to questions from members of the Islands District Council.

So far, 92 tonnes of pellets had been retrieved, and Shuen said some of the remaining pellets might no longer be in Hong Kong waters.

The update came nearly 40 days after seven containers - six containing pellets and one with glass bottles - belonging to mainland oil giant Sinopec fell into the sea from a vessel leased by China Shipping Container Lines.

The pellets washed ashore in Hong Kong, prompting green groups and volunteers to begin a clean-up of beaches before four government departments launched their own.

The government and Sinopec said the pellets were harmless, but green groups said they could become coated with poisons and be mistaken for food by animals.

Agriculture and Fisheries Department senior officer Dr Jim Chu Chun-wa said its studies had shown the pellets had not had a serious detrimental effect on the marine environment or fish.

Two council members had asked Sinopec and China Shipping to answer questions about the incident. The companies answered in writing.

The shipping company said it had sent 500 staff, vehicles and speedboats to help with the clean-up, and arranged for divers to collect pellets. By last Friday, it said, it had collected 3,800kg of pellets. Sinopec said it had bought 40 vacuum machines, 20 generators and 40 walkie-talkies, spending HK$10 million.