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sailing to the rescue (sort of)

The sailing cargo ship Kwai pulled into Kewalo Basin on Tuesday morning with quite a haul — approximately 40 tons of marine debris collected from the Pacific Ocean.

The Ocean Voyages Institute, a nonprofit based in Sausalito, Calif., chartered the Kwai for the first expedition of its kind from Honolulu to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to retrieve the tons of derelict fishing nets, ropes, plastic floats, bottles and other items after deploying satellite trackers a year in advance to locate them. It is believed to be the largest, single haul of marine debris from the Pacific Ocean over about three weeks.

Mary Crowley, executive director of the nonprofit, sees satellite tracking of debris as a more efficient way to clear rubbish from the ocean.

“This is really kind of a ‘proof of concept’ expedition and we’re very pleased with the results,” said Crowley. “The idea is the more we learn about location of the debris, the more efficient we can be with pickup. I have done monthlong voyages out studying the garbage in the ocean, and we’ve done smaller-scale cleanups where we bring in two to three tons of debris versus the 40 tons we brought in.”

The 138-foot ship departed from Honolulu on May 25, returning Tuesday. It was an efficient trip with the mission of locating and removing the debris as quickly as possible using information from nine trackers and two drones. At one point, the crew found an 8-ton ball of nets and ropes.

The data collected will go to the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center for analysis, while the nets will go to the HPOWER waste plant for the nets-to-energy program.