Rena response 'flawed'

JONATHAN CARSON AND LIAM HYSLOP
Last updated 12:13 03/12/2013
Waikato Times

An independent report has found that despite Maritime New Zealand being initially overwhelmed by the Rena incident, the environmental impact was limited.

The rear section of the Rena.
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The Rena.
Rena
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Aerial shot taken in the morning of Sunday, October 23, showing a sheen of oil that had leaked from the Rena overnight.
Rena cargo at Waihi beach
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Onlookers flock to Waihi beach to check out the Rena cargo.

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The response to the Rena oil spill - New Zealand's worst maritime environmental disaster - was flawed, but has ultimately been effective, according to an independent review released today.

The report, by independent reviewer Simon Murdoch, found that Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) was initially overwhelmed by the Rena incident and ''struggled to achieve functionality''.

''The pressures of the Rena incident caused MNZ, across its systems and response machinery, to buckle initially,'' Murdoch said.

''Some of its planned and exercised response functions had limited resilience to begin with and were impaired in ways that might have damaged the response as a whole.''

However, many of those interviewed for the review said that "it could have been a lot worse".

The Rena grounded on the Astrolabe Reef off the Mount Maunganui coast on October 5, 2011, causing the ship to leak oil and spill containers into the sea.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said that while the response was not as efficient as it should have been in the initial stages, it improved quickly and became very effective.

"The review makes it clear that the Rena grounding was one of the most complex maritime response challenges in the world and would have tested the limits of any plan.''

Brownlee announced today a $2 million package to help MNZ improve New Zealand's wider maritime response capability.

MNZ director Keith Manch said the organisation was already implementing a number of the review recommendations and the funding package would help improve the response to maritime incidents.

"The review identifies a range of areas for improvement including: being better prepared (strategically and operationally) across government and with response partners; having greater capability and training; improved administration; revising the structure of the incident command centre; and better engagement with communities and iwi," Manch said.

A summary of MNZ's response to the Rena grounding

Initial response

* Many positions and teams mobilised quickly, but those not adequately specified in the national contingency plan or untested were slowest to become fully functional.

* The Director of MNZ used statutory powers appropriately.

* Problems arose for the planned response in matters of strategic oversight, front-rear coherence, high-level co-ordination and control, and maintenance of public confidence.

Long-term response

* Preparations for oil on shoreline and beaches were satisfactorily executed despite being technically impaired.

* On-board oil removal operations became very effective and reduced risk.

* Dangerous goods risks were managed down gradually.

* Containers and container debris removal operations on water reduced risks to beaches, sea-lanes and shorelines.

Source: Independent Review of Maritime New Zealand's Response to the MV Rena Incident on October 5, 2011.

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TIMELINE

2011

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5

The Tauranga-bound cargo ship Rena hits Astrolabe Reef at 2.14am.
Reports say the ship carrying around 4700 containers is on a 10 degree list and is leaking oil.

OCTOBER 6

Divers inspect ship, pollution response team mobilised, transport investigators begin inquiry, first oil-covered wildlife found dead, salvors appointed.

OCTOBER 9

First attempt to pump oil off Rena.

OCTOBER 10

Oil begins washing up on local beaches.

OCTOBER 11

It is estimated that up to 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil has leaked from the ship.

OCTOBER 12

Captain Mauro Balomaga, 44, and navigation officer Leonil Relon, 37, charged with operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk and granted name suppression, more containers lost overboard in heavy seas, crack appears in hull of ship.

NOVEMBER 2

Resource Management Act charges laid against Balomaga and Relon.

NOVEMBER 13

The bulk of the oil left on Rena removed from the ship.

NOVEMBER 16

First container removed from rear section of Rena.

DECEMBER 21

Balomaga and Relon charged with wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice by altering the ship's documents after it grounded.

2012

JANUARY 8

Rena splits in two after storm.

FEBRUARY 24

Wildlife response team stood down.

FEBRUARY 29

Rena captain, Balomaga, admits all charges laid against him, navigation officer Relon pleads guilty to two charges.

MARCH 8

Interim report into the grounding finds the crew took shortcuts on journey and hit reef travelling at 17 knots.

APRIL 4

Stern section sinks after rough seas.

APRIL 5

Rena's owner, Greece-based Daina Shipping charged with discharging harmful substances into sea.

MAY 25

Balomaga and Relon sentenced to seven months' jail for offences relating to the grounding. The men were not fined.

OCTOBER 4

Simon Murdoch, former boss of the Government Communications Security Bureau, named as head of an independent review of Maritime New Zealand's response to the Rena grounding.

OCTOBER 10

Prime Minister John Key confirms Daina Shipping Company will pay $27.6 million to settle the claims of the Government and public bodies, including Maritime NZ, Bay of Plenty Health Board and the Transport Authority

OCTOBER 26

Daina Shipping Company fined $300,000 after pleading guilty to a Resource Management Act charge of discharging harmful substances.
2013

AUGUST 29

Government offers up an extra $542,000 towards the Rena cleanup to monitor water quality and shellfish, restore shorelines and protect wildlife. It takes the total taxpayer bill to $2.42 million,

DECEMBER 3

Murdoch releases his independent review of Maritime New Zealand's response to the Rena grounding, making six recommendations.

- Stuff

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