Safe Harbor Updates

Cargo Pollution: Shoes on Shore

Posted: Jun 16, 2021 9:15:00 AM

In our cargo pollution series, we’ve set out to show that cargo pollution includes far more than just toxic fumes and oil spills. We’ve told the stories of how rogue rubber ducks, LEGO® pieces, and even Doritos chips have made their way to shores all around the world after falling off cargo ships. 

This time, the cargo pollution comes in the form of shoes. 

In 2019, unworn shoes began washing up on the shores of Ireland, Bermuda, Flores Island, and beyond. The washed-up footwear was originally disregarded as random beach debris until shoe sightings became a more regular occurrence, and the numbers kept racking up. Ireland’s west coast alone found well over 100 running shoes cast ashore. So, where did these shoes run away from? 

Scattered Shoes

On March 3, 2018, the cargo ship, Maersk Shanghai, was traveling from Norfolk, Virginia, to Charleston, Carolina, when it hit a Northeaster off the coast of the Oregon Inlet. The combination of high winds and 40-foot swells knocked a stack of cargo containers overboard. While aircraft crews were able to recover nine of the containers, seven remained missing. Of those missing containers, some were carrying flip-flops and running shoes from various brands, including Nike, Triangle, and Great Wolf Lodge.

A year later, beachcombers have since found hundreds of shoes on the shores of Bermuda, Ireland, the Bahamas, the Azores, the Orkney Islands, and the Channel Islands in the U.K, among other coastal destinations. Though not every shoe that washes ashore can be attributed to the Maersk Shanghai cargo spill, Triangle and Great World Lodge have both confirmed that they lost cargo in that incident, while Nike has yet to make a statement. But hey, if the shoe fits. 

The Aftermath 

This cargo spill just goes to show how far and wide pollutions can easily spread from one single source. While sneakers and flip-flops are not toxic or corrosive, they are plastic, which means they still pose a significant threat to marine life. Sure, some of the footwear has been retrieved, but what about the rest of the missing shoe cargo? It is likely sinking to the bottom of the ocean or still floating around, breaking down into microplastic and disturbing the marine environment. 

Cargo spills like this may seem interesting and quirky on the surface, but they are a reminder of a deeper issue. At Safe Harbor, we are the industry’s largest spill management network. Find out more about our coverage and what we’re doing to help manage marine pollution.


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