How does the container spill disaster impact tourism and nature in the Wadden Sea area?

On 2nd of January 2019, the container ship Zoë of shipping company MSC lost 291 containers northwards of the Wadden Sea islands, on the North Sea, during stormy weather. Many containers with a variety of goods flew in the direction of the coast, some of them burst as a result of the falling down of the containers into the water or the waves, others still intact. Furthermore, an unknown number of containers descended to the bottom of the North Sea, where they are situated to this day. It will take several months before these containers are salvaged, and as a result, they pose a continuous threat to the vulnerable Wadden Sea area.

The goods of the containers and the danger for the Wadden Sea area

It is widely known that the goods of the containers massively drifted ashore on the North Sea beaches of the Dutch Wadden Sea islands, and even reached the Wadden Sea, where a few places on the mainland coast were soiled with a variety of plastic, Styrofoam and other goods. As a result of the relative shallowness in the Wadden Sea, the half-broken containers put in danger the ships that are sailing in the area. From an ecological point of view, this accident can be seen as a disaster. Mainly the small goods (such as plastic granules) form a danger for the animals that populate the Wadden Sea. Due to the strong wind, these plastic granules have been mixed with the sand, and they will stay here for years.

Wadden fans

After the disaster with the container ship, it became clear how many people love the Wadden Sea and want to roll up their sleeves to protect the Wadden Sea region. Countless volunteers took the boats to the islands in the first days to clean up beaches and dunes. The shipping companies sold the boat tickets for half the money, the islanders helped to transport the rubbish and made their accommodations available. As a result, we can see that the Wadden Sea Region lives in the hearts of many people. And that tourists and entrepreneurs feel responsible for protecting the Wadden Sea World Heritage site against the consequences of such a disaster. One of the principles of the sustainable tourism strategy for the international Wadden Sea is thus being put into practice.

Comparable with an oil disaster

This year, ETFI is planning to publish a paper that presents the results of the impact of a potential oil disaster in the Wadden Sea area on tourism on the Wadden Sea islands. A few years ago, ETFI performed a study among several thousands of visitors on the islands and in the marinas in the light of the RAAK PRO OILS project in order to find out what tourists would do in case of an oil spill that happens before or during their stay on one of the islands. After a first analysis, also here it appeared that a part of the tourists would like to help cleaning in order to limit the damage as much as possible.