Loss of experts blamed for spill delays

23:23, Oct 19 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.

Two top oil spill experts who quit New Zealand for jobs in Australia have been brought back to help with the Rena crisis, prompting Opposition claims they could have prevented a five-day delay in responding to the ship's grounding.

The 47,000-tonne cargo ship has spilled oil and containers into the ocean since becoming stuck on the Astrolabe reef off Tauranga two weeks ago.

Bad weather has been pounding the ship, and this morning there are reports the crack in the side of the vessel has widened.

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.

Three salvors would head out the the ship to do an inspection, amid hopes better weather conditions today would allow oil pumping to resume.

Specialist recovery teams would travel to the East Cape today to deal with cargo debris and oil from the Rena which has washed up there, while salvage company Svitzer said it was ready to start transferring containers off the stricken vessel if weather permitted. > Read more: Flotsam heads from Rena to East Cape

Former marine pollution response manager Nick Quinn left Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) last year for a job as response manager at the Australian Marine Oil Spill centre.

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Rena
Rena

Ian Niblock, who was national on-scene manager as well as the Northland regional harbour master, also left to take the harbourmaster's position in Darwin.

On October 11, Quinn took over from Rob Service as on-scene commander for the Rena crisis and Niblock replaced Alex van Wijngaarden as his deputy.

Labour strategist Trevor Mallard said it would have been better if the country could have held on to good people without losing them to Australia.

"Then we wouldn't have been five days behind."

He pointed to comments by chairman David Ledson in Maritime NZ's 2010 annual report that "MNZ was not immune from the effects of fiscal pressures ... and that retention and recruitment of `the right people with the right skills' and in the right numbers presented challenges."

But the Government has said its response to the Rena crisis could not have been faster.

Yesterday, Transport Minister Steven Joyce said it was normal to use international experts when a crisis hit, and several teams were needed.

"You have got to have a number of on-scene commanders. Our guys go over and help with [Australia's] spills because you have to rotate people in and out. Our guys went over and helped in Florida last year. That's the way these international organisations work," he said.

But Mallard said Quinn, who chaired the International Maritime Organisation's oil pollution response technical group, was the world's leading expert in the area. "We lost him and had to get him back again ... They pretended it was a rotation when it was in fact a secondment or other working arrangement of someone who is part of the brain drain to Australia."

Meanwhile, Public Service Association acting national secretary Jeff Osborne said he understood MNZ had lost other key players.

It used to have a naval architect, a nautical analyst, an environmental analyst, a human factors analyst and a rules adviser.

"Those jobs are gone we believe, they don't exist anymore. People have left and not been replaced or they have been laid off."