Maritime NZ Update: Monday 10 October - Rena fuel pumping suspended

Rena’s position on the Astrolabe Reef. The protruding part of the reef is at the right of the ship outline. Aft of her bow which is stuck fast, the reef shelves away according to the contours, to reach a depth of 300ft of water. Image provided Svitzer
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The latest update from Maritime NZ on the Rena grounding was provided at 1000hrs on Monday.


Last Wednesday the 236 metre container ship, Rena, hit the Astralobe Reef just off Tauranga harbour New Zealand. She was traveling at 17knots, when she hit the well-known reef at 2.20am.

She has stuck fast with her bow in the reef. A massive salvage operation is getting underway some five days after the incident.

Rena has 1700 tonnes of fuel oil aboard and if this is released into the pristine coastal area it will be the most serious environmental disaster in New Zealand's history.

The good news is that the weather system which was expected to bring very strong winds to the Astrolabe Reef area is moving further offshore, to the east, and may lose intensity slightly. However winds will remain moderate to strong, and from an onshore direction, in the area for the next three days of this week, before swinging into a westerly direction. The swell from the low pressure area is still expected to have a significant impact on recovery activities.

Currently winds are averaging 15 kts gusting 24kts at Tauranga from a NE (onshore) direction. Further north the indications are that the winds will increase with gusts of around 30kts at Channel Island, and 46 kts at Cape Reinga at noon on 10 October.

Winds for the first five days of the incident have all been from a sheltered offshore direction.

Following is the latest update from Maritime NZ issued at 1000hrs Monday morning.

Pumping of the fuel off the stricken vessel has been suspended due to strong winds and an adverse sea state.

The 236m long Rena stuck on Astrolabe Reef, Tauranga
Bay of Plenty Times
Salvage:
• The salvage team has made good progress on getting oil off the vessel.
• Pumping from the Rena to the bunker barge Awanuia began around 8.30pm last night. About 10 tonnes of oil was successfully transferred to tanks on board the Awanuia.
• However, due to changing weather conditions and the need to make sure the crew from the salvage team stay safe, a decision was made to stop pumping.
• The Awanuia is coming alongside and pumping is expected to resume shortly.
• The salvage team also successfully transferred oil from the forward port tanks to the rear of the vessel where it can be pumped off. Work is continuing to pump fuel from the other forward tanks to the rear of the vessel, where it is easier and safer to take off the vessel.
• A team of 25 salvage experts are on board the vessel.
• A Boeing 747 has arrived with heavy equipment, including a Bell helicopter which has been flown to the site of the spill.
• More heavy equipment has arrived by road.
• This is an incredibly quick response for a salvage operation. It is estimated to take about two days to transfer all the fuel, but this is weather dependant.
• The safety of the salvage team and crew remains paramount. If conditions worsen we will temporarily stop the operation until it’s safe to resume. Until then they will continue to pump fuel off the vessel for as long as it’s safe to work.
• All vents on the ship are now sealed to prevent oil escaping.
• There are 1700 tonnes of oil and another 200 tonnes of diesel which we hope to get off. We think there is about 100 tonnes of oil leaked into the duct keel.
• As a precautionary measure, containers are being lashed more tightly to ensure the safety of the ship.
• The weather is expected to deteriorate in the coming days, so we are working around the clock to remove the oil. The weather will impact on both the salvage and oil recovery effort. The forecast is for north-easterly winds increasing and this will have an effect on our response and salvage operations.
• Salvage experts and naval architects on board are very closely monitoring the ship and have got sensors in place that will provide advance warning if the vessel’s structure is coming under too much stress.

Environmental team:
• Areas that could be affected by a potential oil spill have been digitally mapped and we are working on response options in partnership with the public health service and local councils.
• Fluorometers, to measure the effectiveness of the dispersant, have arrived from Singapore but there is not enough oil to test. Weathered oil is unlikely to disperse but fresh oil will be tested.
• Teams are on Motiti and are setting up points for recovery. Trained people are on their way.
• A survey has been done of Matakana and a plan approved for recovery.

Operations:
• The J Sweep operation has been successfully tested and has recovered 3500 tonnes of oily water which has been offloaded at the Port of Tauranga.
• The naval vessel Manawanui is available and ready to assist to act as a floating platform for launching operations. More offshore recovery resources are arriving on Tuesday.
• Operational teams are assessing both the Maketu Peninsula and Little Waihi estuaries for boom deployment if possible. Booms would be used to protect sensitive wetland areas from oil.
• The Maketu and Little Waihi areas are a priority for the response team, which is getting expert advice from local environmental specialists, and local community.
• We have the appropriate boom on standby and we also have plans in place for different deployment options, depending on weather conditions and the oil trajectory.

Wildlife:
• Nine birds have been recovered, seven little blue penguins and two shags.
• The wildlife centre is capable of managing 500 birds, with a team of 20 people working. We have more people on standby to assist.
• Three shifts of people are working on the beaches with seven teams working on beaches from Mount Maunganui to Maketu spit and there are four teams on Motiti. They have compiled information on species and numbers to be expected.
• A fur seal plan has been developed in the event that seals become affected by oil. This plan covers people, equipment and facilities as well as the possible capture of seals.
Defence Force:
• A number of people and vessels have been turned away from the exclusion zone. These were vessels that did not need to be in the exclusion zone.
• The HMNZS Endeavour arrived last night. It will be the command and control centre for the operation.