Rena salvage crews start pumping

10:02, Oct 16 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.
Rena - Listing
LISTING: Waves break over the reef while the Rena sits, stranded.
The ship has 1368 containers on board.
RENA: The ship has 1368 containers on board.
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 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.
Containers on the Rena's top deck
Many containers on the Rena's top deck are tipped on a heavy angle, close to toppling off.
Rena
POUNDED: Waves crash onto the listing Rena's deck.
Container ashore
A container coming ashore on the northern side of Motiti Island, which is around 7km from the ship grounding site.
Rena - Motiti Island
The first container to hit the rocks and break-up on the northern side of Motiti Island, which is around 7km from the ship.
crack appearing in the middle of the Rena's hull.
This image shows a crack appearing in the middle of the Rena's hull.
Containers fall off Rena
Rena losing containers as heavy swells wash across the ship's deck on the starboard side.
Rena crush
Containers have also been crushed as heavy swells wash across Rena's deck.
Rena - Salvage operation
An Air Force Iroquois helicopter lowers crew onto the Rena, Thursday October 13. What looks like smoke billowing from the ship is probably milk powder, Fonterra said. There were 90 containers of the product on the ship.
Rena - Salvage operation
An Air Force Iroquois helicopter lowers crew onto the Rena.
Rena - Salvage operation
The slick drifting from the Rena, seen from the air, Thursday October 13.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force helicopter winches a salvage expert onto the stricken container ship Rena.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force helicopter winches a salvage expert onto the stricken container ship Rena.
Rena
DEFORMED: Damage to the Rena's structure.
Rena
HEAVY DAMAGE: Rena lists to starboard, with the damage to her hull clear.
Salvors have attached platforms to the stricken ship Rena.
Salvors have attached platforms to the stricken ship Rena.
Platforms salvors have attached to the Rena as they attempt to resume pumping oil from the stricken ship.
Platforms salvors have attached to the Rena as they attempt to resume pumping oil from the stricken ship.
Containers ashore
Containers from the grounded cargo ship Rena are removed from east of the main beach at Mt Maunganui after washing ashore.
Rena
HEAVY LIST: Rena's cargo sits precariously on the deck of the ship.
Rena
HANGING IN THERE: The Awanuia sits behind the Rena and its leaning stack of containers.
Rena
CLEAR SPELL: Salvors are racing against time to remove oil from the Rena before bad weather hits late on Monday, October 17.
Rena
A Maritime NZ diagram shows how the Rena is grounded on the Astrolabe Reef.
Rena
A Maritime NZ diagram shows how the Rena is grounded on the Astrolabe Reef.
Rena
Calm conditions around Astrolabe Reef on Thursday, October 20, allowed these close up photos of the Rena's stern to be taken.
Rena
Rena's remaining containers hang precariously. More than 80 containers have fallen overboard. Many have come ashore, and others are being located on the seabed.
Rena
Rena's bow is broken and twisted from the impact with the Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga.
Rena
The ocean washes in and out of the wide fracture on Rena's starboard side.
Rena
Aerial shot taken in the morning of Sunday, October 23, showing a sheen of oil that had leaked from the Rena overnight.
Rena
Photo taken by salvage team looking out of Rena's bridge showing the list of the vessel against the horizon.

Salvage crews have started pumping oil from stricken container ship Rena and will stay onboard overnight to get as much oil off as possible before poor weather returns, possibly by late tomorrow.

The 47,230-tonne cargo ship grounded on the Astrolabe Reef on October 5, spilling oil and containers into the sea.

Salvage crews have spent the past few days preparing to remove oil from the ship with Maritime New Zealand salvage manager Bruce Anderson confirming this evening that pumping had begun.

Clean up
LONG JOB: Volunteers help clean up the oil from the beach at Mt Maunganui.
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.'
Oil on the beach near Mount Maunganui.
Oil on the beach near Mount Maunganui.
Sunny, 9 years, with his dead fish on Mt Maunganui beach.
Sunny, 9 years, with his dead fish on Mt Maunganui beach.
rena oil spill on Mt Maunganui Beach
Tauranga resident Chris Munro on Mt Maunganui beach, Wednesday morning.
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.
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
Papamoa clean up
SPOILED: Papamoa beach is covered in oil
Albatros
CRIPPLED: A wandering albatross covered in oil in Tauranga
Albatros
SOILED: Oil blobs at the Maketu shoreline
Clean up
WAITING COLLECTION: Scores of bags full of oil await collection in Papamoa.
Clean up
LOADING: Bags full of oil are collected from the beach at Papamoa.
Oil washes up on Papamoa Beach.
Oil washes up on Papamoa Beach.
Container on Mt maunganui beach
A container from the stricken Rena, washed up on Mt Maunganui Beach, Thursday October 13.
Container on Mt Maunganui beach
A woman walks past a container from the stricken Rena, washed up on Mt Maunganui Beach, Thursday October 13.
Container on Mt Maunganui beach
A man walks on Mt Maunganui Beach, with a container from the stricken Rena in the distance, Thursday October 13.
The bleak scene as containers wash up on Mt Maunganui beach.
The bleak scene as containers wash up on Mt Maunganui beach.
Police check a container that has washed up on Mt Maunganui beach.
Police check a container that has washed up on Mt Maunganui beach.
Packets off meat patties from a container off the Rena have washed up on Mt Maunganui beach.
Packets of meat patties from a container off the Rena have washed up on Mt Maunganui beach.
Papamoa Beach oil clean-up
The clean-up operation on Papamoa Beach, Thursday October 13.
Papamoa Beach
Oil on Papamoa Beach, Thursday October 13.
Containers at Papamoa Beach
Containers washed up at Papamoa Beach, Thursday October 13.
Containers at Papamoa Beach
Two containers seen at Papamoa Beach on Thursday October 13.
Oil booms are prepared at the Maketu Estuary in the Bay of Plenty, Thursday October 13.
Oil booms are prepared at the Maketu Estuary in the Bay of Plenty, Thursday October 13.
Territorial soldiers from Auckland clean up Papamoa Beach, near Tauranga, Thursday October 13.
Territorial soldiers from Auckland clean up Papamoa Beach, near Tauranga, Thursday October 13.
Oil scooped from the surface of the water inside the Rena shipwreck's 1km exclusion zone.
Oil scooped from the surface of the water inside the Rena shipwreck's 1km exclusion zone.
Rena container
STRANDED: One of the Rena's broken containers which washed up on Mt Maunganui beach. Pictured Friday, October 14.
Rena container
PULLED ASHORE: One of the Rena's broken containers which washed up on Mt Maunganui beach. Pictured Friday, October 14.
Rena container
SALVAGE:Containers sit in the water on Mt Maunganui beach. Pictured Friday, October 14.
Rena containers
SCATTERED: Containers on the beach just south of Mount Maunganui.
Rena penguin
A little blue penguin awaits transportation to the National Oiled Wildlife Recovery Centre in Tauranga.
Rena Container
ON THE MOVE: A container is hauled off the beach.
John Key Rena
Prime Minister John Key attended a public meeting in Papamoa and went in a helicopter to see the Rena.
Container Rena
Containers on Mount Maunganui Beach.
Volunteers clean up packets of burger patties from the broken contanier washed up on Mount Maunganui Beach.
Volunteers clean up packets of burger patties from the broken container washed up on Mount Maunganui Beach.
A seagull shows the effects of the spilt oil at Makatu.
A seagull shows the effects of the spilt oil at Makatu.
Advice about wildlife that may be affected by the Rena oil spill, at Mt Maunganui.
Advice about wildlife that may be affected by the Rena oil spill, at Mt Maunganui.
Little Blue Penguin gets a clean
Wellington Zoo vet Baukje Lenting with a Little Blue Penguin that is at Tauranga’s Bird Recovery Centre having oil cleaned from it using a toothbrush.
PM John Key views Little blue Penguins
PM John Key visits the Bird recovery Centre where he watches Little blue Penguins that have been cleaned of oil.
Protest rena
MAKING A STAND: Protesters gather outside the Tauranga District Court ahead of the appearances of the Rena's captain and navigator on Wednesday, October 19.
Protest rena
AGAINST DRILLING: Protesters march against offshore drilling ahead of the appearances of the Rena's captain and navigator in the Tauranga District Court on Wednesday, October 19.
Rena protest
EN MASSE: Protesters march against deep sea drilling in Tauranga, ahead of the appearance of the Rena's captain and navigator in court.
Rena protest
IN NUMBERS: Protesters march against deep sea drilling in Tauranga.
Waihau Bay - rena
Debris covered in oil have wash-up at Waihau Bay on the East Cape where Taika Waititi's Boy was filmed.
Rena Bruce Goff
Oil responder Bruce Goff with the Terminator oil skimmer ready for deployment. on Sunday, October 23.

He said MNZ had received a plan from the salvage crew that will allow them to stay on the vessel overnight and all of tomorrow.

"The safety of the salvage team is paramount and I had to be satisfied that there is a workable plan to rescue the people from the vessel if something goes wrong.

"I have now seen the plan which states the steps they will take to ensure the safety on board overnight to complete preparations and then start pumping fuel to the tanker Awanuia that is lying off the Rena's stern."

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renatugwide
RISKY CHALLENGE: Salvors are winched by helicopter on to the 47,230-tonne Rena which is teetering on the edge of the Astrolabe Reef.

"The team has encountered a number of technical difficulties, but the calm conditions and the forecast for the next 24 hours give them a good opportunity to get this work underway."

While the weather has been good for the past few days, it is expected to deteriorate late tomorrow which may impact on the operation.

"This is a hugely challenging and risky operation even in full daylight - these are incredibly brave and dedicated people working very hard to protect the beaches and coastline of the Bay of Plenty."

gashed
FRIGHTENING TASK: A salvor on the the stricken ship.

MORE OIL LEAKAGE LIKLEY

He wanted to stress however that more oil would be released at some point due to the nature of its position in the stricken ship.

"There will be more oil released. How much we don't know yet. When we don't know.''

Around 90m of the ship was firmly positioned on the reef but another 60m of the vessel was hanging off into deep water.

"The only thing holding that vessel....is the buoyancy of all the air in the engine room.''

Bad weather could destabilise the ship."There is every chance the vessel could slip off the reef.''

While the weather forecast was good for today, higher waves were expected on Monday evening, Anderson said.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the boat remained in a "very precarious position''.

"There is every likelihood that further oil may be lost. We are nowhere near out of the woods by any means.''

Meanwhile, there has been a report of a container off the Whakatane coast.

On the beaches, more than 500 volunteers had been expected to assist the clean up effort at Papamoa and Maketu today, combined with around 140 NZ Army personnel.

There had been 618 tonnes of oiled sandy waste recovered, MNZ said.

CLEAN-UP COST

Joyce today revealed the cost of the on-going Rena oil spill clean-up.

So far around $3.5 million had been spent on oil clean up operations, but that did not include the cost of the salvage of the ship, Joyce told TVNZ this morning.

"The cost of the oil response so far is around $3.5 million; the cost of the salvage I don't know but that's entirely at the ship's owner's account - the cost of the salvage and the containers," he said.

However Joyce said the total cost for the salvage and oil clean-up could run into the tens of millions of dollars.

Joyce would be meeting with representatives from the company which chartered the Rena, the Mediterranean Shipping Company.

BEACH RE-OPENS

Officials have re-opened a section of beach previously closed by the Rena oil spill this morning.

A small section of beach between Mt Maunganui, from the Base Track, along to Moturiki Island was now open to public access, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) said.

Assessments of the beach and water quality had cleared the section of beach being opened, said MNZ National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn.

"We've had beach clean-up teams there getting rid of the oil, and this morning we had environmental assessment teams digging down into the sand to check for any buried oil.

"They've dug a number of trenches down into the sand and established that it's clear.

"We have also conducted water sampling, which has confirmed the water in that area has returned to pre-spill conditions."

Changing tides and weather conditions could bring oil back to the beach, however.

Other areas had been closed so work to clean up oil could be carried out.

The area from Moturiki Island to Maketu Point, including the Maketu Estuary, was now closed off.

Additionally, clean-up teams were at the Mount as some oil had been found in rock pools there, he said.

FRIGHTENING JOB

A salvor who descended deep into the twisting bowels of the wreck of the Rena has described it as one of the most frightening tasks of his career.

Anderson said his team had attached four "platforms" around the ship, from which they would lower pumps to get the oil off. They were unable to start the process yesterday but today may see the first oil removed.

If it works, up to 50 tonnes of oil can be removed every hour. The Rena's current oil load would take around 14 hours to remove.

Crews were pushing everything they could to get pumping oil off the stricken ship, Anderson said.

"But they are systematic people, they have to make sure all the processes will work. The last thing they want is to make things worse," he said.

"It's far too dangerous for them to stay on the vessel overnight. If she moves or comes off the reef, they have got a nano-second to get off. The only way to do that is to get in the water and there are strong currents there – we don't need someone injured or killed."

Anderson said salvaging the Rena was particularly challenging. "I was talking with one of the salvage officers, and this guy has been doing this for a long time. He led the initial inspection party and he said this was one of the worst wrecks he'd ever got on. This thing is grinding and groaning away as it is twisting and mashing parts of it up.

"He said going on board that vessel was one of the scariest things he'd done. We shouldn't underestimate the complexity of what they're doing. They don't want to be inside the vessel, they are trying to work on the outside because that is the safest place."

One of the most terrifying areas was the engine room. Several times the salvors had climbed down a five-storey ladder to reach the base of the room, with the ladder tilted badly by the ship's listing position, Anderson said. There was also 60cm of water on the floor.

"Imagine that while you're doing that, you've still got this whole thing creaking and groaning around you."

Meanwhile, hopes the ship was resting completely on the reef were dashed by divers, who reported the ship's bow had settled on the reef but the stern was hanging dangerously in space, Anderson said.

"She is not as stable as we hoped and that concerns me."

He said a change in the weather and bigger swells could cause the ship to break up or move. "You just don't know what is going to take it off."

Anderson also warned that people should be braced for more oil. "We can't control a lot of this stuff and if we have another storm and the vessel starts rocking, we are likely to see more releases."

Environment Minister Nick Smith said while the volunteer effort had seen 70 per cent of the beaches cleared, it was not all good news.

Some of the Rena's oil appeared to now be trapped in the ship's duct keel. "There may be as much as 100 tonnes, and it could be released if weather conditions turn to a larger swell."

FEEDING THE VOLUNTEERS

Volunteers labouring to clean up oil-coated Bay of Plenty beaches have been bolstered by deliveries of baking and cut lunches from locals.

"A local bakery delivered trays of hot sausage rolls and pies as well as cut lunches. Cartons of apples, bananas and oranges were also donated. A number of locals also baked muffins and dropped them in for the volunteers," said MNZ on-scene commander Nick Quinn.

A local radio station had run a barbecue for volunteers at Papamoa Surf Club and one of the banks ran a refreshment station.

"Its very hard physical work cleaning up oil, and this has really given a boost to those people out on the beaches and around the shoreline," Quinn said.

- CLIO FRANCIS, with KATE NEWTON