24 Oct 2011

Nearly a third of oil now off Rena

9:02 pm on 24 October 2011

A further 150 tonnes of fuel oil has been pumped from the container ship Rena, which stranded on a reef off the coast of Tauranga on 5 October.

That means 487 tonnes, or about a third of the oil, has now been pumped off the ship and on to a bunker barge.


Transport Minister Steven Joyce says he is heartened by the progress made by the salvage team over the last 24 hours, but the situation is still precarious.

"All it would take would be to blow a generator, and then you've got to take one out, fly one back over to the ship, collect it all up again and you've lost several hours."

Maritime New Zealand says the focus of the salvors on Monday has been to improve the pumping system.

It says there have been no further confirmed reports of oil appearing on Bay of Plenty beaches.

However, trajectory modelling indicates some of an estimated five to 10 tonnes of oil that leaked from the Rena overnight on Saturday might reach Mayor or Tuhua Island.

The Oiled Wildlife Response Centre says a team of four has been sent to the island to conduct a wildlife survey.

The centre's Helen McConnell says 1370 dead birds covered in oil have been found in total since the Rena ran aground and 357 others are being looked after at the response centre near Mount Maunganui.

Authority spokesperson Sophie Hazelhurst says the salvors are pumping an average of about 80 tonnes of heavy fuel oil off the Rena each day.

By 1pm on Sunday 337 tonnes of oil had been pumped from the ship's port tank, which originally contained 772 tonnes of oil. By Monday afternoon that figure was 487 tonnes.

Salvors have also been testing new equipment including a watertight tunnel which may be used to pump oil from the starboard tank.

Divers have been able to assess the tank and say it has not been breached.

A new fuel transfer system has also been installed, doubling the size of the hose being used to pump oil off the Rena.

Conditions are expected to stay calm until Thursday.