Fears Rena could lose cargo

00:51, Oct 11 2011
The Rena, a Liberia-flagged 235m vessel, had been heading to Tauranga from Napier when it crashed into the Astrolabe Reef, about 7km north of Motiti Island.
The Rena, a Liberia-flagged 235m vessel, had been heading to Tauranga from Napier when it crashed into the Astrolabe Reef, about 7km north of Motiti Island.
The Rena, a Liberia-flagged 235m vessel, had been heading to Tauranga from Napier when it crashed into the Astrolabe Reef, about 7km north of Motiti Island.
The Rena, a Liberia-flagged 235m vessel, had been heading to Tauranga from Napier when it crashed into the Astrolabe Reef, about 7km north of Motiti Island.
The Rena, a Liberia-flagged 235m vessel, had been heading to Tauranga from Napier when it crashed into the Astrolabe Reef, about 7km north of Motiti Island.
The Rena, a Liberia-flagged 235m vessel, had been heading to Tauranga from Napier when it crashed into the Astrolabe Reef, about 7km north of Motiti Island.
The crippled Rena, with  a growing oil slick, off the coast of Mt Maunganui.
The crippled Rena, with a growing oil slick, off the coast of Mt Maunganui.
Low tide showed the extent of the problems facing the Rena's specialist salvage team.
Low tide showed the extent of the problems facing the Rena's specialist salvage team.
The crew had remained onboard despite the vessel's list.
The crew had remained onboard despite the vessel's list.
Oil collected from the water near the stricken cargo ship Rena.
Oil collected from the water near the stricken cargo ship Rena.
Rena - Tania Gaborit
SHOCKED: Marine biologist Tania Gaborit looks at oil in the water from the Rena.
Rena - Listing
LISTING: Waves break over the reef while the Rena sits, stranded.
Rena - Listing
GOING NOWHERE: The Rena sits helpless on the reef.
penguin
A blue penguin found at Papamoa beach at the New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre Mount Maunganui.
penguin
A blue penguin found at Papamoa beach at the New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre Mount Maunganui.
A 3D graphic of the Astrolabe Reef. The colours indicate the water depth.
Oil
ASHORE: Globules of oil from the stricken Rena have washed up along a stretch of Mount Maunganui beach.
Oil from Rena
EVERYWHERE: Globules of oil cover Mount Maunganui beach.
Dave Lynn
CLEAN UP: Resident Dave Lynn scoops up some of the oil now washing up on Mt Manganui beach.
Oil
SCATTERED: Globules of oil now washing up on Mt Manganui beach.
Oil
DIRTY MESS: Mt Manganui beach is awash with blobs of oil from the stricken ship Rena.
Oil
POLLUTED: Oil sits in the water at Mount Maunganui.
Rena
MESSAGE TO THE MASSES: A shipping crate at Papamoa with mural relating to the container ship Rena.
Clean up
LONG JOB: Volunteers help clean up the oil from the beach at Mt Maunganui.
Birds found dead on a Tauranga beach.
Birds found dead on a Tauranga beach.
Oil residues on Omanu beach at the 5 1/2 km beach entry point, Tuesday morning.
DEBRIS: Oil residues on Omanu beach at the 5 1/2 km beach entry point, Tuesday morning. Photographer Todd Murdoch says: 'I could smell the oil close to my house which is located 1km back from the beach.'
ARATAKI BEACH: Reader Brooke Money says: 'This is all that can be seen all the way down the beach - blotches of black, thick oil.'
ARATAKI BEACH: Reader Brooke Money says: 'This is all that can be seen all the way down the beach - blotches of black, thick oil.' Picture taken Tuesday.
The ship has 1368 containers on board.
RENA: The ship has 1368 containers on board.
Oil on the beach near Mount Maunganui.
Oil on the beach near Mount Maunganui.
Oiled Wildlife Response Unit
Oiled Wildlife Response Unit at the scene Monday.
Sunny, 9 years, with his dead fish on Mt Maunganui beach.
Sunny, 9 years, with his dead fish on Mt Maunganui beach.
Rena crew
ASHORE: Crew members from the Rena come ashore after a mayday call this morning.
Rena crew
INJURED: A naval officer is carried to an ambulance after a member of the salvage crew fell on him during the evacuation of the ship.
Rena crew
WATCHING, WAITING: Crew of the Rena look out the window of a hanger at the Tauranga Airport.
The container ship Rena's position on Astrolabe Reef.
The container ship Rena's position on Astrolabe Reef.
Rena grounded on Astrolabe reef
A three-dimensional rendering of the position of the Rena, grounded on the Astrolabe reef.
rena oil spill on Mt Maunganui Beach
Tauranga resident Chris Munro on Mt Maunganui beach, Wednesday morning.
Rena stern - Wednesday October 12
Containers seen falling from Rena's stern - Wednesday October 12.
Rena port - Wednesday October 12
Rena's port side, pictured Wednesday October 12.
Rena
OVERBOARD: Containers from the Rena float in the ocean after falling from the ship.
penguin
COVERED: A bird lies dead on Mt Maunganui beach today.
Penguin
UNSURVIVABLE: A bird that has been washed up on the beach, coated in oil.
Papamoa
CASUALTY: One of the penguins that died following the oil spill. This was found at Papamoa just after high tide today.
Rena lists in heavy seas
This photo taken from the HMNZS Endeavour shows Rena listing in heavy seas. Between 30 and 70 containers fell from the Rena overnight.
Rena captain in court
The captain of the Rena, whose identity is suppressed, appears in court charged over the grounding of the container ship.
Rena
POUNDED: Waves crash onto the listing Rena's deck.
Public meeting in Tauranga to discuss the unfolding disaster.
Environment Minister Nick Smith (centre) and Transport Minister Steven Joyce (right) at a public meeting in Tauranga to discuss the unfolding disaster.
Papamoa clean up
CLEAN-UP: Volunteers help clean up the oil from the beach at Papamoa
Papamoa clean up
CLEAN-UP: Volunteers collecting oil sludge from the beach at Papamoa
Papamoa clean up
CLEAN-UP: Papamoa beach is covered with oil sludge
crack appearing in the middle of the Rena's hull.
This image shows a crack appearing in the middle of the Rena's hull.

There are fears that stricken container ship Rena could lose her cargo overnight as bad weather moves in.

Transport Minister Stephen Joyce confirmed there was a possibility that containers would topple from the ship because of expected high seas and bad weather off the Bay of Plenty coast.

"They are keeping an eye on that; they are obviously going to monitor it if it occurs; they've lashed all the containers, relashed them and lashed them together as groups …..we're hoping it won't occur but it's entirely possible it will given the weather conditions tonight."

Sarah Wood, Ella Dumas and Rob Fraser
NATURE'S WORK: Helpers, from left, Sarah Wood, Ella Dumas and Rob Fraser walk Papamoa Beach looking for animals and birds affected by the oil spill.

Among the more than 1300 containers on the grounded ship are 11 containers of dangerous goods, including four of the hazardous substance ferro-silicon which is flammable if it comes into contact with water, Radio New Zealand reported.

Joyce said the location of the containers was known and they were being monitored.

Joyce said the navy ship Endeavour would act as command and control centre for tracking the containers should Rena's cargo "hit the water".

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"They will be monitoring them and following them and making sure people are aware they could be a danger to shipping and again it is quite possible these things will end up on the coast.

DEFENCE FORCE DEPLOYED

Defence Force personnel have been deployed to help clean up oil that has washed ashore from Rena.

Clumps of sticky, black, smelly oil are polluting the beach at Mt Maunganui, one of the country's most popular holiday spots following the grounding of the Rena container ship last Wednesday.

There were about 300 Defence Force personnel either deployed or on stand by.

Four Navy vessels, a diving support vessel, two inshore patrol vessels and a tanker have been deployed to maintain the exclusion zone, which was extended today to 2.8 kilometers.

Two helicopters were also assisting with aerial observations and transporting salvage experts and conservation workers.

Estimates suggested anywhere from 10 to 50 tonnes of oil had leaked in to the ocean. People were warned to stay off the beach and avoid all contact with the highly-toxic oil.

More oil was expected to wash up near Papamoa within the next 24 hours amid worsening weather conditions.

OIL ON BEACHES

Oil could continue to wash up for weeks, Joyce said at a press conference this afternoon.

Estimates suggested anywhere from 10 to 50 tonnes of oil had gone in to the ocean. People were warned to stay off the beach and avoid all contact with the highly-toxic oil.

There has still been no public explanation about what caused the ship to get stuck.

Claims about what had happened on the night the Rena ran aground would be considered in an investigation to come, Joyce said.

Joyce said he was aware of checks on the vessel carried out in Bluff before the incident but said the focus at the moment was on the salvage of oil and the oil clean-up.

The Maritime Union has claimed the Rena was riddled with problems, including issues with its charts, which could explain how it ended up getting stuck on the Tauranga reef.

The union released a statement today, claiming Maritime New Zealand found multiple deficiencies with the cargo vessel when it carried out an inspection on the ship in Bluff on September 28.

While Joyce declined to comment further on the Rena's inspection, he did say the incident was "pretty inexplicable" and the captain had been interviewed by investigators. He had not been briefed on that interview with the captain.

It was "safe to assume" that an investigation would consider the condition of the captain at the time of the incident.

RECOVERING THE OIL

Recovery of oil from the ship was the first focus, Joyce said. Oil was being moved from the front to the back of the ship - work that was ongoing. Removal of the oil from the ship was "very challenging", with attempts to siphon it to a waiting barge today being disrupted by the weather conditions.

The ship was carrying 1700 tonnes of oil and 200 tonnes of diesel.

There was also about 100 tonnes of oil unaccounted for on the ship and it was not clear how much of that had left the ship. Maritime NZ believed the 100 tonnes of oil had leaked into the duct keel.

International experts have said the response was very swift given the complexity of the job.

With the ship stacked full of containers, towering up to bridge height, the salvage operations have included trying to secure them to prevent any falling off the listing ship.

Removing the containers would be very tough as the ship was on a 11 degree lean, Joyce said.

"The oil is the biggest environmental impact, it's bigger than any of the containers, I understand.

"They have to get the oil sorted first."

He said the Rena's hull was breached in a number of places and while there were no apparent oil leaks from the ship at present, it was an hour-by-hour question.

Crews had begun pumping oil from the ship to the tanker vessel Awanuia in case the ship broke up, but the configuration of the oil tanks meant the salvage was taking longer than planned.

The off-loading process is expected to take 30 to 40 hours and could be halted again if the seas get too big today.

Equipment has been brought in from all over the country and from Australia to assist. The Defence Force is also on standby if needed.

WEATHER HAMPERING EFFORTS

The MetService has issued a gale warning for the Bay of Plenty and is forecasting a northeasterly, rising to 35 knots this afternoon.

The salvage experts and naval architects on board are closely monitoring the ship and have sensors in place to provide advance warning if the vessel's structure comes under too much stress.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) said it was working fast to organise a clean-up and have asked the public to keep away from the beach, erecting public health signs this afternoon.

With bad weather forecast for later today, all vents on the ship had been sealed to prevent oil escaping and as a precautionary measure, the containers were being lashed more tightly to ensure safety.

The weather also meant it was unlikely they could clean oil up from the water's surface, forcing MNZ to prepare for the oil slick to potentially make its way to Tauranga harbour.

SunLive.co.nz reported a 1.5 metre groundswell was forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, with a face height of 2.5m.

''The slow moving front over northern New Zealand is expected to direct a moist north to northeast low over the Bay of Plenty, bringing periods of rain with heavy falls from late [today], through Tuesday and into Wednesday.''

The low would bring rainfall of between 90 and 130mm from late today, through to tomorrow.
Northeasterlies, turning to westerlies, are forecast for Wednesday, followed by northwesterlies on Thursday.

The weather will impact on both the salvage and oil recovery effort.

Salvage experts and naval architects on board were closely monitoring the ship and had sensors in place that would provide advance warning if the vessel's structure was coming under too much stress, MNZ said.

A team of 25 salvage experts are on board the vessel, it said.

An air evacuation plan was in place to get people off the Rena safely if necessary.

ENDANGERED WILDLIFE

Papamoa is bound to the south by the sensitive Maketu wetlands, a home to colonies of threatened New Zealand dotterel and five "critically endangered" fairy terns.

Seven little blue penguins and two shags have been recovered, drenched in oil, and at least four birds have been found dead.

Frustrated residents say the official response was taking too long and began cleaning the oil themselves this morning despite the warnings.

"I'm not happy. Something should have happened already," said Tauranga resident Dave Lynn.

Lynn came across the oil - and three dead birds - while walking his dog near Tay St. The beach north from there was coated, he said.

"You can see the oil everywhere, the moment you touch it, it's sticky and yuck - it looks like big black rocks."
Wildlife response teams are in Tauranga.

- TRACY WATKINS, PALOMA MIGONE, JOHN HARTEVELT, IAN STEWARD and DANYA LEVY