12 Jan 2012

Wrecked Rena leaking more oil

10:57 pm on 12 January 2012

Maritime New Zealand says some oil has been seen escaping from a container ship that remains stranded off the Tauranga coast.

The Rena grounded on Astrolabe Reef on 5 October last year. It finally broke in two after severe weather at the weekend and on Tuesday about three-quarters of the stern slipped below water, but has not moved any further since.


A flight over the wreck at midday on Thursday identified a metallic sheen around the wreck heading in a south-easterly direction.

Maritime New Zealand says modelling still shows that oil may wash ashore east of Maketu from Friday morning, but this depends on weather conditions.

It says there are unconfirmed reports of a small amount of oil washing up at Pukehina beach south-east of Maketu.

Recovery vessels are in Tauranga harbour in the event of any oil entering the area.

The authority's on scene commander, Alex van Winjgaarden, says a different looking patch has been observed south of Motiti Island. He says it is being monitored, but it is suspected that it is an algal bloom.

Containers secured on bow

Maritime New Zealand says salvors have been on the Rena's bow section assessing its condition on Thursday and lashing down containers in anticipation of bad weather.

Salvage unit manager Dave Billington says salvors noticed some containers in the front section had appeared to have come loose.

The current forecast is for up to 35-knot winds with a swell of between four and five metres in the Bay of Plenty.

Mr Billington says the swells continue to hamper efforts to investigate the broken wreck, but dive teams and a survey vessel remain on stand-by.

He says a lot of jagged steel has been exposed and wave surges are causing containers and debris to shift around, making conditions unsafe for divers.

Naval architects working for salvage company Svitzer are looking at how the containers on the bow can be safely removed.

Booms in place

Maritime New Zealand says response teams have put booms in place to protect vulnerable areas of the coast and will be on site at Mount Maunganui, Leisure Island and Matakana Island.

Teams will also continue to clean up container debris from the ship from the sea and on shore at Waihi Beach and Matakana Island.

A spokesperson for environmental clean-up specialists Braemar Howells says containers and debris have turned up on isolated rocky beaches on Motiti Island, which cannot be accessed by road.

Grant Dyson says removing the containers from rocky shorelines is "a bit of a headache", as it is difficult to get boats close enough.

"Occasionally, we'll have to send a guy in a wetsuit swimming ashore with a rope to take some stuff in tow. It doesn't get any harder or (more) dangerous than that, frankly."

Mr Dyson says the better weather conditions on Thursday should make it easier to remove 11 containers from Matakana Island.