The cleanup system being used to recover plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch halfway between Hawaii and California was forced to return to port for repair and modifications.
Boyan Slat, the founder and chief executive of the Dutch environmental organisation Ocean Cleanup, said the fracture of the 18m end section of its System 1, also known as Wilson, was discovered on Dec 29 during a regular inspection.
Ocean Cleanup has developed the 600m long U-shaped floating barrier with a 3m skirt screen system to collect plastic debris for recycling.
On Jan 2, Mr Slat said: “We believe that the material fatigue in the floater was caused by the load cycles combined with a local stress concentration. No material was lost. Both the 580m main section and the 18m end section are both completely stable, all bulkheads are intact and the end section has two stabilisers to stop it rolling over.
“As the redundancy in the cleanup system’s sensors and satellite communication, which are mounted on both end sections, has now been compromised, we concluded it was sensible to return to port.”
The system was deployed last October and during the initial observations, it had been noted that the plastic sporadically escaped the system.
The Maersk Supply Services AHTS Maersk Transporter, 4,678gt, was also returning to port with around two tons of plastic recovered from the Patch in a few weeks through a combination of the Wilson and ghost net fishing.