16 Nov 2011

First containers come off Rena

10:59 pm on 16 November 2011

The first three containers have been lifted off the cargo ship Rena off the coast of Tauranga, six weeks after it grounded.

The salvors say riggers used blow torches to cut loose rods holding three containers on a stack leaning towards the starboard side. They were then lifted by crane on to an 85 metre barge moored behind the Rena.

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Maritime New Zealand's salvage unit manager, Kenny Crawford, says the weather was calm when the salvors got out to the vessel on Wednesday morning so they made another attempt to lift the containers off.

Mr Crawford says 118 transponders have been fitted to containers likely to fall off.

A total of 463 containers are still on the deck of the ship while another 814 are secured in holds below.

When the vessel ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef on 5 October, it was carrying 1368 containers, of which 88 have since been lost overboard.

The authority says there were no reports of any fresh oiling on beaches overnight.

Beach access restrictions were officially lifted between Mt Maunganui and Maketu Estuary at 6am on Wednesday.

However, a section of beach from Harrison's Cut, past the Papamoa Surf Lifesaving Club to Alexandra Place, and the Maketu Spit remain closed to the public because both areas are still being cleaned of oil.