Researchers sharpen predictions of where lost cargo will wash up

July 4, 2018 by Rachel Packham, University of New South Wales
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The UNSW team tracking cargo lost from a ship near Port Stephens are now predicting the path of the containers days in advance.

More debris lost in the Port Stephens shipping container spill could be brought back to Australia's coast in the coming days by the eddies of the East Australian Current.

A team of UNSW Canberra and Jerusalem College of Technology researchers are tracking the 81 containers that were lost overboard from the YM Efficiency.

The team's ocean debris tracking model is now able to predict the dispersion of lost cargo days ahead of its arrival and the beaching patterns have matched well with the observed beached debris.

The UNSW Canberra team is led by Dr. Isabel Jalón Rojas and includes Professor Xiao Hua Wang, the Director of UNSW Canberra's Sino-Australia Research Centre for Coastal Management (SARCCM), and Ph.D. student Fanglou Liao. The Jerusalem College of Technology team is led by Professor Erick Fredj.

Dr. Jalón Rojas has analysed data tracking the debris, which demonstrates the debris has shifted both north and south along the NSW coast.

"According to our simulations, at this moment some debris may be still near Port Stephens, while other debris are moving away from the coast following currents, in particular following the eddies of the East Australian Current," Dr. Jalón Rojas said.

"This offshore debris may be brought back by the same eddy in coming days."

Credit: University of New South Wales

Dr. Jalón Rojas says wind is an important driver as there is a strong correlation between the wind and current direction.

The containers were storing objects as diverse as nappies, furniture and tyres. The Newcastle Herald reported that yoga mats made up the latest load of debris, which was salvaged off Fingal Island. The nature of the debris affects how it is dispersed.

The current 2-D model is tracking the transport of debris in surface waters. The team is also working on a 3-D model that can track the debris route beneath the ocean's surface.

Dr. Fredj says the 3-D model will consider more complex biophysical processes involved in the transport of .

"The plastic marine debris problem can be viewed as a source, pathway and sink problem," Dr. Fredj says.

"Simulations using numerical models can be important tools in estimating any of these three issues. Simulations can also be used to test hypotheses addressing knowledge gaps within these three topics."

The retrieval of continued this week and about 947 sq m of waste has already been collected, according to NSW Maritime. Just two containers have washed ashore.

If the tracking project is successful it could be applied to other incidents across the globe, and enable more effective clean-up efforts.

Explore further: Aircraft debris looks like it's from MH370 – now can we find the rest?

Related Stories

Recommended for you

A novel approach of improving battery performance

September 18, 2018

New technological developments by UNIST researchers promise to significantly boost the performance of lithium metal batteries in promising research for the next-generation of rechargeable batteries. The study also validates ...

Germany rolls out world's first hydrogen train

September 17, 2018

Germany on Monday rolled out the world's first hydrogen-powered train, signalling the start of a push to challenge the might of polluting diesel trains with costlier but more eco-friendly technology.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.