Rena wreck removal set to begin

Last updated 15:59 14/08/2012

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Salvors working on the container ship Rena are set to begin removing parts of the wreck in the next couple of days.

Resolve, a US company appointed by the ship's owners and insurers to reduce the size of ship's bow, began to cut through the metal this week.

The scraps would be lifted by helicopters. More information about the removal was expected to be released tomorrow.

The Rena grounded on the Astrolabe Reef on October 5 last year, causing an environmental disaster when oil began to spew into the sea.

The condition of the wreck deteriorated, and on January 10, the ship snapped in half and much of the stern rested under water.

After months of salvage work on the ship, insurers The Swedish Club on Friday revealed that a series of studies would be commissioned considering different options for dealing with the wreck - including leaving part of it on the reef.

Captain John Owen, senior claims manager for The Swedish Club who is overseeing the wreck recovery project, said the study was expected to be completed in two months.

"There are many dimensions that need to be considered and we'll be consulting widely and listening carefully," he said.

The study would focus on assessing the effects of two general scenarios and may indentify intermediate options.

The first scenario was a full wreck removal in accordance with formal notices issued by Maritime New Zealand.

"Wreck removal is a heavy-engineering operation that could have significant impacts on the reef and sea bed as well as marine life," Owen said.

"It's never a simple task, and in this location it could be quite dangerous and will take a long time."

The second scenario was to assess likely conditions once the bow section was reduced below the water line.

"This will give us a starting point to consider the positive or negative impacts of any other options such as partial reduction of the sunken stern section,'' he said.

The stern was lying on a slope at a depth of up to 65 metres, and part of the ship's navigation bridge was only ten metres below the surface.

"That  presents some risks as well as opportunities for recreational users, while an operation to reduce the height of the bridge might have some negative environmental effects."

Owen said the study would also to take into account how conditions might change over the years, and would be shared with he community and authorities to make an informed choice.

However, a Maritime New Zealand spokesman said: "As far as we're concerned the order for wreck removal remains in place."

He said if the insurers wanted to explore other options, "they would need to explore that with the [Bay of Plenty Regional Council] under the Resource Management Act".

Council consents manager Helen Creagh said staff and Rena's owners were currently discussing possible resource consent options for the remaining sections of the wreck.

The council was unable to comment further, saying they have yet to receive any application.

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