Delay as Rena oil pump 'blew out'
Oil is again being pumped from Rena after a booster pump blow-out earlier threatened the salvage operation.
Eight hundred bags of oily debris have been collected from the coastline today while more than 11 tonnes of oil had been removed from the Rena,
Martime New Zealand (MNZ) Salvage unit manager Dr Bruce Anderson said a booster pump was reinstalled after the circuit blow-out.
Divers have also entered the ship to investigate the seals of the starboard-side engine room manhole.
Martime New Zealand (MNZ) Salvage unit manager Bruce Anderson said the pump used to remove the oil had to be removed but a replacement was on its way to the vessel where it ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga's coast more than two weeks ago.
MNZ National on-scene commander Ian Niblock said 800 bags of oily debris were collected off the Bay of Plenty coastline today. It was not know how much oil had been removed from Rena however, after pumping began again at 12.09pm today. Anderson said oil was being pumped across 160 metres.
It has been confirmed that oil has been collecting on the surf-line, hidden below the surface of the sand. The beaches will remain closed until it is all assessed and collected.
Of the 88 containers that have so far fallen off Rena, 49 have been located, leaving 39 unaccounted for, Anderson said.
Thirty five containers are floating on the ocean and 16 had sunk but could be collected at a later date.
Divers were able to assess Rena's starboard side today and noticed a leak in one of the side doors. Salvors would have to pump water out of the vessel before carrying out work on number five tank. They would likely form two dams to block the doors.
Environment Minister Nick Smith said no significant new oil has come shore from the ship today and said it was also good news that not as many birds are being found dead.
He said removing the oil on the starboard side, which was estimated to be about 350 tonnes, would be an incredibly challenging exercise. "I will not be sleeping easy until every drop of oil is off the Rena."
Salvors have been able to continue pumping oil without the booster. He estimated that up to 87 tonnes of oil could have been pumped off the Rena.
BEACH CLEAN-UP CONTINUES
Volunteer beach clean-ups have resumed at the main Mount Maunganui beach, Maketu, and along the eastern coastline.
There were no reports of new oil on beaches or from the Rena, however oiled debris had washed up in parts of the East Cape, National On Scene Commander Ian Niblock said.
"Oil is occurring at natural collection points along the coast from Mt Maunganui to Maketu and we're using these collection points as a base for ongoing clean-up operations.
"We're well prepared and have response options in place with more than 6000 volunteers, along with daily surveillance from air and on shore.
"We're also reviewing the beach closures for the Bay of Plenty coastline, aware that the long weekend is coming up. We want people to enjoy themselves, but the safety of the public is paramount.
"We do need to remind local communities to not touch any oil or oiled debris and to report it to 0800 OIL SPILL. It's also important not to eat seafood in areas where there has been or currently is oil contamination," Niblock said.
OIL COULD SPREAD FURTHER
Oil and debris from the stricken ship Rena could potentially reach further south, said MNZ.
Oil-covered animal skins, bags of meat and timber yesterday washed up at Waihau Bay, hundred of kilometres from the Rena, as containers and debris made their way east.
Authorities were looking at extending the exclusion zone around the Rena.
The zone was increased from 1.7km around the Rena to an area measuring 40km by 45km last week.
If the oil did spread further around the east coast of the North Island MNZ had operations in place, the agency said.
The Rena was stable overnight, Anderson said, and the large crack on the starboard side hadn't changed.
"It's about 60cm on the starboard side. The port side is a messy area."
The economic impact of oil arriving at the settlement of Waihau Bay was immediate, with the holiday weekend hopes dashed.
The bay featured in the popular New Zealand movie Boy.
The Waihau Bay Fishing Club cancelled its annual Labour weekend fishing competition.
People from as far as Auckland and Wellington had planned to come for the weekend and had booked accommodation, Waihau Bay Fishing Club secretary Christine Elmiger said.
But there probably wasn't any point in them coming anymore, "unless they want to bring their gumboots and gloves", she said.
"We were hoping it wouldn't come this far but it has. It's so devastating to see it on our beaches."
Jan Sanford from Oceanside Apartments in Waihau Bay said her establishment was now empty when it had been fully booked for Labour Weekend.
"I'm totally empty now, and I'm never empty for Labour Weekend," she said.
She had had bookings from as far away as Taupo and Auckland, many staying for a weekend fishing contest.
Boaties did not want to put their valuable boats into oil-affected water, as cleaning was difficult and oil was damaging to inflatable vessels, she said.
A coastal navigation warning had been issued to include the East Cape, following the discovery of the oil-covered remains of containers that washed ashore at Te Kaha and Te Araroa.
Aerial observations yesterday showed a very light sheen of oil moving away from the ship in to the south, he said.
Rena's captain and navigational officer appeared in court yesterday and were remanded on bail until November 2.
They face charges under section 65 of the Maritime Act for "operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk".
- MICHELLE COOKE and KEVIN NORQUAY