As winds and seas calm around the Astrolabe Reef, Tauranga, the New Zealand authorities are focusing their efforts on the clean up operation as 350 tonnes of oil and 70 containers make their way ashore from the stricken container ship Rena.
A large exclusion zone has been declared around the Rena as a result of the beginnings of the break up of the 236metre ship, which rammed into the Astolabe Reef, off Tauranga, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The release issued by Maritime NZ at 0730hrs on 13 October reads as follows:
Clean-up crews tackling oil spilled on Bay of Plenty beaches from the cargo vessel Rena face a 'long hard slog,' MNZ National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn said.
'There is a massive effort underway and it is only going to grow,' he said.
'We understand the anger and disbelief we're hearing from people.
'We have a huge task in front of us but I can assure you that we are on the front foot and mobilising where and when we can.
'Our focus is on recovering oil from wherever we find it and we will go in day by day until this is over.
'It's hard dirty work, but with all the agencies involved and the community pulling together, we will get this oil cleaned up,' Mr Quinn said.
Mr Quinn said the response team was working to coordinate volunteer efforts.
'We are very appreciative of the volunteer support we are continuing to receive. We need to coordinate this properly to ensure we get the maximum benefit from it. Please be patient while we put systems in place to manage these teams – be assured we will be calling on you.' Clean up
· Clean-up teams have so far collected 50 tonnes of solid waste and 5 tonnes of liquid waste.
· Yesterday, 17 kilometres of coastline was cleaned of oil.
· Today the coastline from Whangamata to Whakatane will be assessed by the SCAT (Shoreline Clean-up Assessment Team) to determine the areas of highest priority for cleanup. The teams will then work methodically through the affected areas.
· There is a massive operation underway today with around 500 responders on the beach.Theatre, Taugang
· The Rena is settled on the reef. However, the vessel is moving around a little with high tides – the next one is at 9am.
· The salvage master and the head of the MNZ salvage unit are going out at first light to do an observation flight. They will make an assessment of the vessel and a plan will be developed to get the salvage crew back on board the vessel if it can be done safely. Human safety must be the priority and no action will be taken that will put lives at risk.
· If we do get people on board the vessel today, two helicopters will be on standby to evacuate crew members if needed. Criminal charges – second officer
· The second officer will appear in Tauranga District Court this morning facing one charge laid by Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act (MTA) 1994, 'for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk'.
· The Master of the vessel was yesterday remanded on bail until 19 October on the same charge, on the condition he surrender his passport. His name is suppressed. Wildlife
· The Wildlife team has established a seal capture team and have five seals in captivity.
· We have now recovered 200 dead birds and this is expected to increase significantly.
· There are 36 teams out in the field and at the wildlife facility – we have 47 oiled animals at the rehabilitation centre.
· The public are asked to please report dead birds, as the wildlife team will come and retrieve the birds as they need to examine them as part of their process.
· There have been reports of people receiving phone calls from individuals claiming to be part of the wildlife response and seeking donations from the public. Please note this is NOT an official request – there are no requests for public donations for any aspect of the spill response. Volunteers
· Over a thousand people have volunteered to assist with the cleanup which is really heartening, as it shows just how deeply the people of the Bay of Plenty care about their environment This is hard physical labour and the fact that people are continuing to volunteer is appreciated.
· If you want to volunteer and haven’t yet done so, please phone 0800 645 774 or through the website www.boprc.govt.nz/oilspillvolunteers
. For those of you who already have volunteered and haven’t yet been contacted please be patient – we will get to you. Public health
· Health warnings are being issued to prepare residents for worsening smells from the oil.
· The oil spillage on the beaches, combined with the current weather conditions, has produced in a noticeable smell in some areas. This smell is likely to diminish over a period of one or two hours from the time the oil reaches the beach.
· Some people in the vicinity may experience some physical discomfort. They are advised to shut windows and avoid the immediate vicinity of the beaches and all immediate or secondary contact with the oil spillage.
· Anyone with concerns about the public health issues should call 0800 611 116.
· Moderate winds and sea state forecast, with 20 knot north easterlies dropping to 10 knot westerly winds this morning and rising to 10 knots again this afternoon – 3m swells easing. Public meetings today
· 1pm at Mount Maunganui College Hall
· 6pm Papamoa Sports and Recreation Centre