Clean-up from Rena oil spill set to begin
Updated at 4:47 am on 11 October 2011
A major operation to clean up oil washed ashore in the Bay of Plenty from a stricken container ship will start on Tuesday, authorities say.
The 47,000-tonne Rena struck the Astrolabe Reef, about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Tauranga, last Wednesday. Officials estimate 20 to 30 tonnes of oil has spilled from the damaged hull into the sea.
On Monday, thousands of globules of sticky thick black toxic liquid have been found from south of Main Beach to Papamoa. People have been advised to stay away from the area and not to take or eat any shellfish.
Maritime New Zealand's national commander at the scene Rob Service says there was another small leak of oil from the damaged ship on Monday and warns more oil will come ashore with the current rough weather conditions and may spread further south.
Mr Service says it is far better to wait until a reasonable amount of oil has accumulated before experienced teams start the clean-up. It is expected that volunteers may be called on to help at some stage.
The 21-year-old vessel was heading towards Tauranga from Napier when it ran aground. On board are 1700 tonnes of fuel and 11 containers of dangerous goods, including four of the hazardous substance ferro-silicon which is flammable if it comes into contact with water.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce says recovering oil from the Rena remains the focus of the salvage operation, but this is weather dependent and a difficult process. He says the location of the 11 dangerous containers is known and they are being monitored.
Fuel transfer hampered
Maritime New Zealand resumed pumping fuel to a barge on Monday but efforts were hampered due to equipment overheating and continuing poor weather, spokesperson Ross Henderson says.
Only 10 tonnes of fuel has been taken off the ship. Fuel is also being pumped from the forward tanks to others in the ship's stern where it is easier and safer to remove.
Maritime New Zealand says all vents on the tanks have been sealed to prevent oil escaping, but the speed of the removal depends on weather conditions. Transferring all the fuel is likely to take 30 to 40 hours.
The Defence Force says it has about 300 personnel either deployed or on stand-by to assist with the clean-up.
Four Navy vessels are supporting the operation, including the tanker Endeavour. The Port of Napier is providing a tugboat. A Boeing 747 arrived on Monday with heavy equipment, including a Bell helicopter.
Wildlife Response Team co-ordinator Kerri Morgan says there has been a report of a dog covered in oil and local vets have been given information to assist. Birds, including penguins, have also been affected by the oil and treated.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce says the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and Maritime New Zealand are investigating the incident, and whether or not the captain was under the influence of alcohol will be part of the inquiry.
Next story in National: Union calls for answers over ship's grounding
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