Rena: 'Deeply sorry for your situation'
Bay of Plenty beaches can expect a bit of respite tomorrow as wind and sea currents are predicted to move oil from the Rena down the coast, but not on to the coastline, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research says.
The 47,000 tonne cargo ship Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe reef off the coast of Tauranga last Wednesday, spilling oil and containers into the sea.
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NIWA has created a video that shows where the oil is expected to be dispersed to, based on weather forecasts.
A total of 95.45 tonnes of solid waste and 6 tonnes of liquid waste had been collected from beaches and taken to the waste transfer station.
Poor weather over the past few days has hampered attempts to get oil off the boat and also sped-up the boat's deterioration with large cracks appearing in its hull yesterday.
The owner of the shipping company whose vessel Rena smashed into the reef off Tauranga has spoken out about the ship's grounding, apologising and saying "one drop of oil in the water is one drop too many".
Meanwhile, Diamantis Manos, managing director of Costamare Shipping Company S.A has apologised to Tauranga residents and New Zealanders for the "disastrous event".
"We apologise without hesitation for what has happened," he said.
"To the people of Tauranga we want to say we are deeply sorry for the situation that has arisen and the threat we are now facing from fuel oil from the vessel washing-up on your beaches in your beautiful part of the world."
"We are currently investigating how this disastrous event could have occurred. Our captain is an experienced master and has an exemplary record."
He said obviously something "went very wrong".
Manos said the company would fully cooperate with New Zealand authorities to determine what happened and "find the answer".
"We will cont to engage the salvors and various experts to try to prevent the worst from occurring."
He said the company was conducting its own enquiry.
"It would be inappropriate for us to publicly speculate on the cause of the groundings at this stage."
"We sincerely apologise to the people of Tauranga and New Zealand for this incident."
BOAT HOLDING TOGETHER
Despite "significant cracks" the ship was holding together, Key said this afternoon. Two oil tanks in the stern held 770 tonne and 200-300 tonne of oil.
Salvage missions to pump out the oil had resumed but it was a complex and slow process, he said.
A three-person salvage inspection team helicoptered on to Rena at 9.30am to inspect the leaking vessel. They spent several hours onboard.
At a press conference this afternoon Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) salvage manager Bruce Anderson said there was still a lot of creaking, groaning and moving around of the boat.
The team inspected any damage caused by containers falling.
"One thing they were worried about was the hoses used to move fuel around the vessel [would be damaged]."
"The reports back so far there is no major damage to equipment."
However they do not believe the auxiliary engines are operable and the ship's list has increased slightly.
The finer weather meant the choppers were also able to begin spreading the oil dispersant again this morning.
Oil was drifting ashore in moderate and heavy quantities from Papamoa to Maketu, authorities said. Oil recovery teams were out on the beaches cleaning this up, MNZ said.
Flotsam from the ship had also landed in Tauranga harbour.
The ship was on a 22 degree lean, MNZ said tonight. There was a large spilt in the port and starboard hull.
ASSISTANCE MAY FOLLOW - KEY
The Government said today it would consider temporary assistance to help individuals and businesses affected by the Rena disaster.
Prime Minister John Key said nothing had been decided but temporary grants and payments, such as those made during the Christchurch earthquake, may be made available through the Ministry of Social Development.
Key said it was unclear just how many people would lose their jobs as a result of the beachfront closure.
"It'll just depend on how long things are out of action for and who's actually affected."
Beaches polluted with the toxic oil spewing from the stricken container ship are closed to the public as volunteers work on the clean-up.
Hundreds of dead birds have been found in the Bay of Plenty and that number is expected to rise significantly, possibly reaching the thousands.
Key did not believe there would be a long-term negative affect on tourism in the area.
Treasury was also working on a total cost of the clean-up which should be available within two days.
The "latest and greatest" figure was $12.1m.
Key said there were few "silver clouds" in the Rena disaster but at least for now the oil was heading out to sea and into the beaches where it would be broken down and cleaned up, rather than into the estuaries.
"If there's any silver clouds, and there's not many, or linings, in this one is on the beaches is the quickest way to clean this up."
Negotiations over oil levy fund's of $3.5m were ongoing and the Government had legal opportunities under the Resource Management Act with which it would get money, Key said.
For now the focus was on getting the oil off the ship.
Volunteers were also being trained to help clear the oil off the beaches.
"The beaches are officially closed, we're not essentially enforcing that in the way that we're not going to throw people off the beach but for their own good we're asking them to stay away from the beach."
"I share the frustration of the locals, it's their playground, it's their livelihood and we do want to mobilise them because they're a very important resource."
WILDLIFE DEATH TOLL PILES UP
MNZ confirmed today that five hundred dead birds had been found and 70 birds, four seals and 123 dotterels were been taken care of at the Wildlife Response Centre.
“The mortality rates are starting to increase and there are several hundred dead birds yet to be collected by the wildlife teams who are working methodically to deal with the oiled birds coming in,” MNZ National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn said.
About 88 containers have fallen into the sea, with at least 20 coming ashore at Mt Maunganui and Papamoa. The containers were being guarded by police.
MNZ said assessments were underway to decide if the contents of the containers were a hazard, but early reports that one contained the toxic chemical ferrosilicon have since been dispelled.
One of the containers did, however, contain Alkylsuphonic liquid, which is water soluble, MNZ said.
"It is not considered a significant health risk. It may cause some localised effects to the seabed – we will be monitoring this."
Other containers to fall from the ship carried timber, dairy products and animal pelts. Slightly over half - 48 - were empty.
MNZ today authorised the closure of the beach stretching from Mount Maunganui down to Maketu, including Maketu Estuary, with restricted access to clean up teams in place for the next 24 to 48 hours.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council chairman John Cronin said residents loved their beaches and their frustration was understandable, but the dangers involved in the clean-up should not be underestimated.
Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby said a limited number of volunteers could be accommodated at the beaches so the teams needed to be coordinated.
More than 1500 volunteers had already registered with Maritime New Zealand, which was the best thing to do, he said.
Volunteers would be trained before beginning a four-hour shift.
SECOND OFFICER RELEASED ON BAIL
The Rena's navigation officer has been released on bail after appearing in the Tauranga District Court today.
The man was granted interim name suppression for his own safety by Judge Robert Wolff and was due to reappear in court on October 19.
He faces charges under section 65 of the Maritime Act for "operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk".
The hearing was almost identical to that of the Rena's captain, who was granted the same conditions yesterday.
CONTAINERS WASH ASHORE
Containers that washed up on Mt Maunganui beach this morning had unleashed debris including burger patties and animal skins.
Police were stationed at the beach to guard the contents.
Residents stood stunned as the flotsam from the broken containers washed up.
Angel Bay said about 2000 cartons of its partially-cooked beef patties were on the ship, being transported by refrigerated containers.
The beach was littered with the silver packaging and foam, and the padding from the container's walls.
About 50 residents stood on the beach watching the mess wash up.
Further down the beach, near Tay St, animal pelts lay wet and ruined on the sand.
"It's very saddening for the public," police acting sergeant Lee Stringer, a local, said.
"We've had a difficult year with the Pike River mine and the Christchurch quake. Hopefully we can clean it up soon."
Resident Vicky Mackintosh said the beach looked like a scene from a movie.
"It's our doorstep and it seems we won't be swimming for a while.
"It's devastating, but more devastating for wildlife," she said.
Susan Lyndon, who lives nearby, described the site as a "bloody mess".
Bill Pretchard said he was watching disaster unfold.
"What we are seeing is only part of it. We are more worried about what we can't see."
He was critical of the response and said New Zealand was not prepared for the Rena crash.
- Fairfax NZ