Joyce: Slick damage will get worse

08:13, Oct 07 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.
Oil collected from the water near the stricken cargo ship Rena.
Oil collected from the water near the stricken cargo ship Rena.
Rena - Tania Gaborit
SHOCKED: Marine biologist Tania Gaborit looks at oil in the water from the Rena.
Rena - Listing
LISTING: Waves break over the reef while the Rena sits, stranded.
Rena - Listing
GOING NOWHERE: The Rena sits helpless on the reef.
penguin
A blue penguin found at Papamoa beach at the New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre Mount Maunganui.
penguin
A blue penguin found at Papamoa beach at the New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre Mount Maunganui.
A 3D graphic of the Astrolabe Reef. The colours indicate the water depth.
Oil
ASHORE: Globules of oil from the stricken Rena have washed up along a stretch of Mount Maunganui beach.
Oil from Rena
EVERYWHERE: Globules of oil cover Mount Maunganui beach.
Dave Lynn
CLEAN UP: Resident Dave Lynn scoops up some of the oil now washing up on Mt Manganui beach.
Oil
SCATTERED: Globules of oil now washing up on Mt Manganui beach.
Oil
DIRTY MESS: Mt Manganui beach is awash with blobs of oil from the stricken ship Rena.
Oil
POLLUTED: Oil sits in the water at Mount Maunganui.
Rena
MESSAGE TO THE MASSES: A shipping crate at Papamoa with mural relating to the container ship Rena.
Clean up
LONG JOB: Volunteers help clean up the oil from the beach at Mt Maunganui.
Birds found dead on a Tauranga beach.
Birds found dead on a Tauranga beach.
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.'
ARATAKI BEACH: Reader Brooke Money says: 'This is all that can be seen all the way down the beach - blotches of black, thick oil.'
ARATAKI BEACH: Reader Brooke Money says: 'This is all that can be seen all the way down the beach - blotches of black, thick oil.' Picture taken Tuesday.
The ship has 1368 containers on board.
RENA: The ship has 1368 containers on board.
Oil on the beach near Mount Maunganui.
Oil on the beach near Mount Maunganui.
Oiled Wildlife Response Unit
Oiled Wildlife Response Unit at the scene Monday.
Sunny, 9 years, with his dead fish on Mt Maunganui beach.
Sunny, 9 years, with his dead fish on Mt Maunganui beach.
Rena crew
ASHORE: Crew members from the Rena come ashore after a mayday call this morning.
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 crew
WATCHING, WAITING: Crew of the Rena look out the window of a hanger at the Tauranga Airport.
The container ship Rena's position on Astrolabe Reef.
The container ship Rena's position on Astrolabe Reef.
Rena grounded on Astrolabe reef
A three-dimensional rendering of the position of the Rena, grounded on the Astrolabe reef.
rena oil spill on Mt Maunganui Beach
Tauranga resident Chris Munro on Mt Maunganui beach, Wednesday morning.
Rena stern - Wednesday October 12
Containers seen falling from Rena's stern - Wednesday October 12.
Rena port - Wednesday October 12
Rena's port side, pictured Wednesday October 12.
Rena
OVERBOARD: Containers from the Rena float in the ocean after falling from the ship.
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.
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.
Rena captain in court
The captain of the Rena, whose identity is suppressed, appears in court charged over the grounding of the container ship.
Rena
POUNDED: Waves crash onto the listing Rena's deck.
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
crack appearing in the middle of the Rena's hull.
This image shows a crack appearing in the middle of the Rena's hull.

 

The oil slick from a leaking ship off the Tauranga coast remained a constant size today, Maritime New Zealand said.

But the environmental damage from the spill will get worse before it gets better, Transport Minister Steven Joyce said.

And the spill is taking its toll on wildlife, with four little blue penguins and two shags rescued from Motiti Island today.

Four teams of responders are based on the island at present, and 10 more will join them tomorrow.

The Rena has been stranded off the Tauranga coast since grounding early on Wednesday. It has 1700 tonnes (2 million litres) of heavy fuel oil on board.

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»Click here for a visualisation of the oil on board the Rena

Transport Minister Steven Joyce arrived in Tauranga today to inspect the leak, SunLive.co.nz reported.

"We are dealing with a considerable clean-up operation and we can expect some oil to come ashore at some point," Joyce said.

An estimated 100 tonnes of oil has leaked from one of the ship's fuel tanks into its bilges and keel and forecast bad weather is expected to increase the rate of spill as the ship is damaged further.

Maritime New Zealand National On Scene Commander Rob Service said efforts to stop the leak and disburse the oil were difficult due to inappropriate equipment for the rough seas.

"Offshore operations are subject to weather conditions and we are not being able to undertake on-water operations due to the conditions," he said.

More than 100 people are now in Maritime New Zealand's response team, which is planning for all eventualities, including a large-scale discharge of oil from the ship.

Trials of dispersants were continuing after inconclusive results yesterday, with experts advising against the use of protective booms due to strong currents and rough seas, Maritime NZ said.

The Auckland based fuel ship Awanuia will head to Tauranga shortly in what is likely to be a bid to get bunker oil off the stranded ship Rena.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) and National Oiled Wildlife Response Team members were monitoring the area for any injured wildlife and checking on reports from the public.

A specialist oiled wildlife response centre has been established at a water plant outside of Tauranga.

MNZ advised people to not handle any oiled animals found themselves, and reminded people there was a 1km exclusion zone in place.

'POTENTIAL DISASTER'

Marine experts are warning it's highly like the ship would break up and say the fuel needs to be taken off.

The call came as Environment Minister Nick Smith said the spill from the ship "had the potential to be New Zealand's most significant maritime pollution disaster in decades".

Marine expert John Riding, of Marico Marine, said the ship's position tracking based on AIS data - a system which gives real-time ship locations - showed the Rena had moved slightly.

"I truly doubt that she will float if she breaks in two and unfortunately that is a real scenario, given that she is laden.

He said more trouble would come if sea swells built, which were forecast for next week.

Low water had revealed the true extent of problems facing the specialist salvage team tasked with solving the growing crisis.

From an observation boat the ship's bow could be seen rammed up and onto the reef, listing dangerously to one side. Containers stacked eight-high on the ship's deck looked to be compounding the problem.

Observation flights that began at first light, continued to survey the damage while specialist dive crews were now in the area and inspecting holes in the hull where the ship struck the reef.

It was through these holes that heavy fuel oil was leaking into the water, putting fish and other marine life at risk.

"Never in my 30 years of being on these waters have I ever seen anything like this," said marine expert Graeme Butler.

"This is my worst nightmare - how dare these people come to my ocean environment and do this to it."

GOVERNMENT 'SHOULD TAKE OVER'

Opposition parties were  calling on the Government to take responsibility of the salvage operation.

Green MP Gareth Hughes said the Government should take over full legal responsibility for the clean up due to the seriousness of the environmental situation.

It was good the Government was cooperating with the vessel's owner, but the public needed to know where ultimate responsibility lay, he said.

"This situation needs the full resources of our Government to resolve this dangerous environmental situation."

Labour conservation spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said it appeared the Government had learnt nothing from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The Government should be all over this. It needs to take the lead and work alongside the salvage company, and it needs to ensure every effort is made to disperse the oil."

Wildlife experts said the oil leaking into the water was a disaster in an area teeming with marine life, she said.

"It's not something waiting to happen. It is happening."

SALVAGE RESPONSE

Svitzer had experts onboard the ship examining how to best resolve the situation.

Spokesman Mathew Watson said a naval architect was arriving from Holland this afternoon to help with the assessment.

"He has a pivotal role because he calculates the situation of the vessel and the various weight scenarios."

Watson said it could take a couple of days for equipment from New Zealand, Sydney, and further abroad to land in Tauranga.

"That is quite normal for a salvage operation of this magnitude," he said.

The operation could take some time as it was a "steady and meticulous" process.

"It's not something that can happen overnight. There are hundreds of variables that need to be considered and the plan needs to be gradually developed."

"The priority at the moment is focusing on the fuel and how that can best be dealt with."

Watson could not say how the fuel would be drained, but said experts could move the fuel to another location within the vessel or transfer it to a bunker barge.

"In salvage operations such as this, there are different options available. With which we'll proceed with the Rena, it's too early to say."

ANIMAL RESCUE

A bird cleaning and rehabilitation centre has been set up in Tauranga today and a base was established on Motiti Island.

Forest and Bird seabird advocate Karen Baird said urgent action was need to avoid an environmental disaster and minimise seabird deaths.

The major risks will be to seabirds such as terns, gulls, gannets, penguins, petrels and shearwaters.

"Landing in the oil slick is a death sentence for these birds. Their feathers will become clogged with oil and they can sink or drown, or be unable to fly. Swallowing even small amounts of oil can be fatal to them or their chicks when they try to feed them."

- Paloma Migone, Kirsty Johnston/Stuff, Michael Field/Auckland Now, SunLive.co.nz