On Saturday, December 29th, during an inspection of the cleanup system, Ocean Cleanup's offshore crew discovered that an 18-meter end-section had detached from the rest of the system. According to Boyan Slat, Founder & CEO of the Ocean Cleanup, probably a material fatigue combined with a local stress concentration, caused a fracture in the HDPE floater.
Both the 580-meter main section and the 18-meter end section are both completely stable. Namely, all bulkheads are intact, and the end section has two stabilizers affixed to it, so rollover is not possible. What is more, because no material was lost, there have been no safety risks for the crew, environment or passing marine traffic. Nevertheless, the redundancy in the cleanup system’s sensors and satellite communication has been compromised.
The system is now returning to port with terabytes of data that will be used to develop the necessary upgrades. The Maersk Transporter is also carrying around 2000 kg of plastic recovered from the patch over the past few weeks through a combination of the cleanup system and ghost net fishing.