12 Nov 2011

Barge being lined up to remove Rena containers

5:16 pm on 12 November 2011

A barge is being prepared to be moored alongside the stranded cargo ship Rena in the Bay of Plenty so that containers can be taken off it in the next few days.

When the vessel ran aground on the Astrolabe reef off the coast of Tauranga last month, it was carrying 1368 containers. Eighty-eight have since been lost overboard.

A Maritime New Zealand salvage adviser, Jon Walker, says a barge will be moored while the weather is good.

"Mooring will be a big operation to get it more correctly along the port side," Mr Walker says, "and then they'll start to experiment with it and try to see how to remove the containers.

"So possibly over the next couple of days, weather depending, we might start to see containers being removed."

Meanwhile, two-thirds of the 358 tonnes of oil in the ship's submerged starboard No 5 tank has been pumped into the tanker Awanuia.

Beaches can't be reopened yet

Meanwhile, Maritime New Zealand says the danger of another major oil spill from the Rena is shrinking, but it has not been able to reopen affected beaches this weekend as it had hoped.

The restrictions cover beaches from Tay Street, Tauranga, to Maketū east of the city.

The agency says teams on Saturday are cleaning areas where there are significant levels of oil in the sand and on rocky shorelines.

It says they are trying to prevent the oil being washed away and deposited on other parts of the coast.