"The clean up will likely take months", Dutch water authorities spokesman Edwin de Feijter said on Saturday. "The largest part of the debris has been located, but there are still parts missing."
Two salvage ships left the harbour at IJmuiden, near Amsterdam, on Friday night, heading towards a container north of the tiny Rottumerplaat island, which is blocking an important shipping route between Germany and the Netherlands.
Work was planned to start at midday on Saturday, but rough weather looked set to delay the operation, De Feijter said, adding that 238 objects had been identified in the water so far.
"Those objects are not all entire containers, they can also be part of the cargo lost from broken ones."
Seventeen containers washed up on shore on the Dutch islands of Terschelling, Vlieland, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog, with the debris of many others littering the islands' beaches.
MSC, the world's no. 2 container shipping group, on Wednesday said it had made significant progress on the Dutch islands, with a total of 1,220 tonnes of debris collected so far.
Dutch authorities last week said they would hold MSC liable for the cost of cleaning up the waters.
Roughly 100 soldiers joined the clean-up operation last week, while local authorities and volunteers had already gathered up tonnes of waste from several kilometres (miles) of coastline. (Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
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