VOR Boats Find Malacca Strait Littered with Debris

The beauty of the Malacca Strait is marred by the amount of debris that sailors encounter, sometimes all too closely.

A constant stream of debris, including a piece of trash the size of a small car has shocked the Volvo Ocean Race sailors as they weave around the potentially boat breaking obstacles in the Malacca Strait.

Sailors have reported seeing everything from a canoe to shoes, rope, cigarette lighters, chunks of metal and whole trees floating in the strait, leaving them wondering what lies beneath the murky surface.

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG skipper Ken Read said he was saddened to see the quantity of rubbish floating in the shipping superhighway, which had left him dismayed by humanity.

“It’s an incredible place to sail but the sad part is how much stuff is in the water, how much junk there is in the water,’’ he said. “How people in the world can’t treat the ocean with more respect is just fully beyond me.”

The United Nations Environment Program has reported that more than 15,000 vessels pass through the strait every day, each disposing of operational discharge, bilge water and trash. Fishing vessels, aquaculture development, coastal urbanisation and reclamation are also adding to the pollution.

The debris is demanding the constant attention of the sailors, who are spending their time on deck scanning the water for anything that could snag or hit the boat and potentially result in race ending damage.

Earlier this week PUMA’s MAR Mostro hit a tree and took a chunk out of their dagger board.  Bowman Casey Smith said it was both frightening and bizarre sailing through the strait.

“The night time is scary because it’s all still there, but you can’t see any of it,’’ he said. “We saw a sea kayak poking out of the water today. That was pretty strange. Then we saw a flip-flop and it had three crabs on it. What sort of a conversation are three crabs having on a flip flop in the middle of the Malacca Strait?”

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand Media Crew Member Hamish Hooper said one curious piece of rubbish caused the crew to begin to wonder if they were approaching an iceberg earlier this week.

“Disappointingly there is a huge amount of rubbish in the water here now — we have seen signs of it approaching here over the last couple of days with the odd shoe, cigarette lighter, rope, plastic etc. floating past,’’ he said.

“But this morning’s sighting took the cake. We saw what looked like a small iceberg, which in fact was a massive chunk of polystyrene, the size of a small car lazily floating on by.”

For the complete story, go to www.volvooceanrace.com.

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