Maritime NZ - Rena Disaster - 27 October- Pumping stops after easy oil

The Rena intact on the reef at 7.30am - Rena - 26 October 2011

Maritime NZ, on Thursday 27 October, issued a media release/public notice in regard to the Rena Disaster updating on the situation and containing public information relating to the environmental disaster.

Rena update #57

Salvors have now pumped as much oil as possible from the port number five fuel tank on the stranded vessel Rena, allowing attention to shift to the more difficult to access tanks on the ship.

Maritime New Zealand Salvage Unit Manager Kenny Crawford said the port number five tank was now almost empty, with only residual amounts of oil left. This would be dealt with later in the salvage process, he said.

'There’s only the dregs left in the port number five tank now and that’s really good news. Getting this oil off is an important milestone and we can now focus on clearing the starboard and settling tanks. Mr Crawford said the salvage team would be working around the clock in an effort to get oil pumping from the starboard tank.

'However, this will be an extremely difficult and complex operation, as the starboard tank is underwater and divers will need to construct a dam so water can be removed before an attempt can be made to pump oil from the tank.'

Captain Jon Walker, a specialist salvage consultant for MNZ, also reiterated the challenging conditions in which the salvors were working. 'These operations are very complex and very dangerous. Salvors are working underwater and in pitch black on a ship that is listing heavily.'

In total, 808 tonnes of oil have been removed from the Rena, leaving 575 – 600 tonnes on board. Attempts are also being made to connect pumps to the settling tanks on the port side of the ship, so oil from them can be removed to the Go Canopus tug. But progress has been slow due to extensive damage to the ship’s hull.

The new oil hose being prepared for pumping on board the Go Canopus. This is the hose that can enable direct pumping from the settling tanks and service tank. - Rena - 26 October 2011

National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn said oil spill clean-up efforts were focusing on rocky areas around Mount Maunganui and Leisure Island, and noted that old oil was still resurfacing along the foreshore at Papamoa Beach. The 5-10 tonne oil slick that leaked from the Rena on Saturday is still being monitored and Mr Quinn said a forward operations base had been established in Whangamata to assist with this.

'We haven’t received any reports of oil reaching the Coromandel yet but we are making sure we are prepared,' said Mr Quinn. 'We have people monitoring the situation and others ready to go at short notice.'

Volunteer Coordinator Pim de Monchy praised the hard work of the 6,700 registered volunteers and said more were needed to assist, starting with two scheduled clean-ups 10am tomorrow at Tay Street, Mt Maunganui and at the Taylors Road end of Taylor’s Reserve, Papamoa East. More clean ups were also planned throughout next week.

'We’ve had over 3,000 volunteers help out so far and they’ve done the same amount of work as one person working full time for four years. That’s a great effort,' says Mr de Monchy.

Mr de Monchy also thanked the many businesses and corporates who had helped provide people and resources to the volunteer effort, and called for any more that were willing to help to step forward.

'The clean up effort is going to take weeks, if not months, so we need as many volunteers as possible. I really encourage anyone who has a few spare hours to make sure they’re registered at to come down and help. Even those from further afield are welcome to come for the weekend and lend a hand.'

Rena update #56

The wildlife response to the Rena oil spill has been praised as one of the quickest in the world, thanks to excellent foresight and planning systems.

There are 385 animals in the wildlife centre, with three more little blue penguins arriving yesterday. Long term penguin enclosures are being built to house the birds until it is safe to release them into the wild.

Seven international experts are working at the wildlife centre. Alternate Wildlife Centre Manager Curt Clumpner, who has worked on numerous oil spills since the Exxon Valdez Alaska disaster, says New Zealand’s response is one of the quickest he has seen.

'The speed of response in New Zealand is among the top two or three countries in the world,' says Mr Clumpner, an American from International Bird Rescue. 'The wildlife response centre was set up and ready to clean birds within a day of the grounding. That’s incredibly quick compared to other spills I’ve been involved in.

'The team at Massey University have been planning for this for years and they have been constantly updating their training. It’s especially impressive given that New Zealand hasn’t had a major oil spill before.'

Massey University is under contract to Maritime New Zealand to provide an oiled wildlife response capability. The specialists from Massey lead the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team, a network of veterinarians and specialists from throughout the country. The team is leading the Rena response.

Mike Ziccardi, Director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at UC Davis University in California, says the focus is on getting the job done with none of the political wrangling that has marred some clean up efforts in the USA.

'As soon as the Rena grounded Kerri Morgan from the National Oiled Wildlife Response Centre emailed her international networks to check everyone’s availability,' says Dr Ziccardi. 'That’s the first time I’ve seen that happen – a testament to the sense of cooperation here. The response really has been fantastic.

'They have a calm and positive attitude and that’s excellent as it’s really easy for people to panic and get emotional in these situations.'

Volunteer coordinator Pim de Monchy has called for more volunteers to respond to requests for assistance after old oil resurfaced along Papamoa beach yesterday.

'We have several volunteer events planned for tomorrow and over the weekend and I want to encourage registered volunteers from across the Bay of Plenty and beyond to come and help clean the beaches,' says Mr de Monchy

'Because very little oil has leaked from the Rena, some people may be under the impression they aren’t needed. However old oil is resurfacing along the coast from Mount Maunganui to Papamoa and we want volunteers to help clean it up.'