19 Oct 2011

Critical time for stricken ship

4:50 am on 19 October 2011

Rough weather has forced salvage crews to stop pumping oil from a grounded ship off Tauranga and it is hoped work will resume on Wednesday.

The Rena was heading towards Tauranga from Napier when it hit Astrolabe Reef on 5 October carrying 1700 tonnes of fuel and more than 1300 containers. At least 350 tonnes of oil and 88 containers have spilled into the ocean, washing up on Bay of Plenty beaches.


Salvors on Tuesday afternoon described the next 24 hours as critical. They managed to get about 90 tonnes of oil off the badly damaged ship overnight on Monday before they had to disconnect a transfer hose between the Rena and a bunker barge about 11.30pm when it became too dangerous.

A spokesperson for Svitzer Salvage says crews tried throughout Tuesday morning to reconnect the hose, but were unable to due to the way the ship was moving in the water.

Matt Watson told Checkpoint he hopes to get back on the Rena on Wednesday morning and believes this will be possible due to the weather forecast.

However, Mr Watson warns the fragile ship is on a knife edge as winds on Tuesday night could make it move about on the reef.

MetService says the wind will pick up overnight on Tuesday to northerlies of about 30 knots with swells of up to three metres.

From Wednesday afternoon, the forecast is for fairly settled weather leading into Labour Weekend.

More oil leaks

Maritime New Zealand says there was a fresh release of oil from the Rena overnight on Monday, but the size of the new spill is relatively small.

The oil sheen is moving further offshore and breaking up 2km from the stern. About 1200 tonnes of oil remains on the ship.

Maritime New Zealand says there have been no fresh reports of oil on beaches on Tuesday.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says more oil is expected to come ashore, but in the meantime volunteers for the beach clean-up are taking a two-day rest.