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Maritime NZ Update- Tue 11 Oct - Mayday as Rena shifts big oil spill

by Maritime NZ on 11 Oct 2011
The 236m long Rena stuck on Astrolabe Reef, Tauranga Bay of Plenty Times
The latest update from Maritime NZ on the Rena grounding was provided in a media release at 0930 Tuesday morning.

Last Wednesday the 236 metre container ship, Rena, hit the Astrolabe Reef just off Tauranga harbour New Zealand. She was traveling at 17knots, when she hit the well-known reef at 2.20am.

She has stuck fast with her bow in the reef. A massive salvage operation is getting underway some five days after the incident.

Rena has 1700 tonnes of fuel oil aboard and if this is released into the pristine coastal area it will be the most serious environmental disaster in New Zealand's history.

The short story is that onshore seas have caused the Rena to shift, and come more upright. While the authorities claim that this is a result of rock crushing below her bow, it may also be further crushing of the ships hull - depending on which is the more sacrificial surface. Either way an expected outcome is that more oil will be released from either cracked bow tanks (which are being pumped aft) or from the keel duct which contains 100 tonnes of oil which cannot be accessed by the salvage team.

The salvage team has now set up a permanent base in a vacant supermarket, with about 200 people on site on a single floor, with the expectation that this recovery operation will take several months, rather than weeks.


Salvage

The Rena is settled on the Astrolabe reef as the list has improved from 11 degrees to 3-6 degrees. An aerial survey of the vessel shows there are no obvious signs of deformation. The ship has sustained some damage from current movements and there is a significant amount of oil leaking from the vessel. This is estimated at 130-350 tonnes from the overflight at first light today. (Previously just 20 tonnes had been spilled)

Oil may also be leaking from the duct keel because of the damage sustained. Salvors are monitoring and assessing this situation. It is inevitable that some oil will reach beaches from Mount Maunganui south to Maketu. Oil is also expected to enter Tauranga Port.

The Rena is still intact, but it is moving around in the weather conditions.

All personnel have now been taken off the vessel as a precautionary measure due to the conditions. The vessel earlier called a mayday as precaution to expedite the safe removal of the remaining crew.

The weather in the area of the ship is poor, with 3-4m swells and winds of 20-25 knots (37-46 kph).

There has been more damage to the front part in the vessel, and additional flooding in the forward holds. However, this will to some degree help to settle Rena.

No containers have come off the vessel. With the improved list the containers have become more stable, as they are now more upright than before. We are monitoring the dangerous goods containers, which are all intact and lashed down, but we will continue to monitor them.

Environmental

Dispersants are being tested on the fresh oil leaking from the ship. There is however sea swells of up to 4 metres which usually makes it difficult for the dispersant to work.

The oil leaking from the ship is currently heading in a southerly direction which means it will move south down the coast. We can’t control where the oil goes, but response teams are well equipped and trained to handle these situations.

Approximately 100 members of our clean up response teams are at Mt Maunganui this morning to clean up the oil off the beach.

There are 2 on water recovery vessels mobilised and they are ready to intercept any oil coming into the harbour.

The Maketu estuary boom is still in place. There is no oil in the Maketu and Matakana estuaries, but with the currents and surge coming in it is possible oil will come into the estuaries even if the boom is there. We are prepared for this and have teams ready to be deployed immediately.

Wildlife

Please do not pick up dead birds on the beach. Please call 0800 333 771 with the location of the bird/s and we will send trained teams to re-cover the birds. We need to keep counts of the birds to keep track of what species have perished so please report them to us.

Please DO NOT walk your dog on the beach. This can be harmful to your pet and yourself.

There are 12 teams from Mt Maunganui to Maketu scouring the area for oiled wildlife.

There are no fresh reports of any more oiled wildlife.

iwi

We have two iwi liaisons officers at the Incident Command Centre to keep local Maori informed of the situation, response, and progress. We are grateful for their assistance and we will continue to keep iwi informed.


From the earlier Release at 0730hrs on Tuesday:


Salvage operation

· Overnight, the Rena’s list has improved – moving from 11 degrees, to a more upright position of 3–6 degrees, and its orientation or heading on the reef has changed by about 4 degrees.

· Fresh oil has been seen this morning leaking from the ship, heading in a south-westerly direction.

· This movement is believed to have been caused by some crushing of the rock underneath the front part of the vessel, and salvage experts say that this is normal and to be expected in these situations.

· As a precautionary measure however, further non-essential crew are being taken off the vessel this morning, assisted by the Navy. This will begin at first light.

· There has been no change to the structural integrity of the vessel, which is described as being in 'relatively good shape', but naval architects on board are continuing to keep a close eye on the situation.

· The movement of the vessel to a more upright position is good insofar as it provides a more level platform for the containers on board and for people on board the vessel.

· The top priority remains getting oil pumped off the vessel, before it can be salvaged. Overnight, further good progress was made in transferring fuel to the rear of the ship, where it is less vulnerable to spilling and can be pumped off.

· During pumping operations yesterday, the bunker barge Awanuia suffered some minor damage, with minor damage to its foc’sle. It has now returned to port to have that damage repaired. As soon as it is repaired, it will head back out to the Rena.

· However, owing to the poor weather conditions, the Awanuia is currently unable to resume pumping from the Rena.


Oil recovery

· There is a public health warning in place and people are urged to please stay off the beaches and use common sense.

· Do not touch the oil or attempt to clean up the oil as it is toxic. Attempting to handle or remove the oil can also make the damage to the beach worse.

· The beach clean up at Mt Maunganui is beginning at low tide this morning, which is the best time to clean the area. This will get underway around 11am once teams have been briefed. Approximately 100 people will be involved.

· We have had not fresh reports of oil overnight, but more oil is expected to come ashore today.

· It is highly likely that oil will enter the harbour area, and this cannot be prevented due to very strong currents, but it will be cleaned up. More oil is also expected at Papamoa and Maketu.

· An aerial observation flight is going up this morning to assess if any further oil is leaking from the ship, and what oil there may be in the water. If there is oil there, it will be sprayed with dispersant.

· Oil has been found on beaches from Mount Maunganui to Girven Road and on the southern end of Matakana Island. We expected oil to wash up on the shore today and overnight, although we acknowledge that this doesn’t make it any less distressing for local people.

· The boom at Maketu is still in place at Maketu and is being checked as soon as it is light to determine how effective it has been.

· It is in individual clumps of about fist-sized patties about 5mm high and stranded on the tide line about every 700 to 800mm apart.

· Although we have specialist teams on standby ready to clean up the oil, there will inevitably be some delay as they are mobilised and travel to affected areas. Please be patient. Although it looks bad, the oil in its clumped state is at no risk of going anywhere, and people attempting to remove it without the proper training or equipment risk making the situation worse.

· No shellfish or fin fish should be eaten from waters with visible oil contamination.

· Initially 10 trained teams will carry out the beach clean ups and it will expand to 20 teams later.

· Beach cleanup teams will increase in number as more oil accumulates on the beaches by trained personnel.

· If people see oil coming ashore please call the spill response number on 0800 645 774.

Wildlife

· We have had no more oiled wildlife at the wildlife centre other than the seven penguins and two cormorants which are now all swimming happily. There have been no reports of any fresh oiled wildlife overnight.

· We have nine teams searching the beaches and four teams on Motiti but there are no signs of oiled wildlife.

· We have had a report of one oiled dog. If pets get oil on them, or you are concerned they may have come into contact with oil, please contact your local vet.

· Do NOT handle any affected wildlife. Call 0800 333771 if you find any oiled wildlife. If you see fur seals keep your distance and call the wildlife phone line.
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