Maritime NZ - Rena Disaster - 22 October: Pumping oil continues

Pumping of Rena’s fuel oil continued overnight. Fine weather is forecast until Wednesday and savlors are taking advantage of the good conditions while they can. - 22 October 2011

Maritime NZ, on Saturday 22 October, issued a media release/public notice in regard to the Rena Disaster updating on the situation and containing public information relating to the environmental disaster.

Rena update - #43

At 2pm today, the total amount of oil pumped from the port tank of the cargo vessel Rena was confirmed at 256 tonnes, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says. The weather forecast remains good for further pumping over the next few days.

The main focus of the salvage operation is ensuring the continuous transfer of oil from Rena.
Today four teams of salvors have been working on the vessel, tasked with four key areas of operation:

• Pumping oil from the main port tank, which formerly held 772 tonnes of oil
• Installing pumps into the settling tanks, which hold a total of 220 tonnes of oil, in order to begin a separate pumping operation from these tanks
• Loading further heavy equipment such as generators onto the vessel, which will increase the power and capacity for further pumping operations
• Diving to assess how oil might be pumped from the number 5 submerged starboard tank.

The oil tanker Awanui moored astern of Rena takes oil from the Rena. An inflatable barge could have been tethered astern in this way, or secured against the port (left) side, when the Rena was listing to the other side at less than half the angle
Twelve salvors are involved. More may join the teams on board but, given the Rena’s precarious position on the reef, the number involved at any one point will be based on the ability to evacuate them quickly in the event of an emergency.

A significant issue is the fact that all equipment has to be manhandled by salvors once on Rena, as lifting machinery on board the heavily listing vessel cannot be used.

The vessel Pancaldo has been retrieving containers from the sea floor. It will move from site to site to areas where containers have been identified as resting. The initial focus is the coastline in front of the main Mount Maunganui beach.

An ocean-going, heavy-duty tug, Go Canopus, which can remain on-station in bad weather, is now on hand. This vessel is intended to act as a backup for the tanker Awanuia, which is receiving oil pumped from Rena. This will give the salvage team greater ability to continue operations in heavy swells.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Bruce Anderson said it was good to see the slow but steady removal of fuel from the ship.

'Every drop of oil the salvors remove is another drop that won’t go into the marine environment. MNZ is encouraging the salvors to explore every avenue to speed up the process, and their commitment to this is demonstrated with the four different work streams we have seen today.'

Clean-ups continued at five main points along 30km of coastline, and at Waihau Bay, about 200km from Tauranga.

National On Scene Commander Alex van Wijngaarden said there had been no significant leaks of fresh oil from Rena for 11 days but residual oil from initial spills is to be expected.

'It will be a matter of cleaning and re-cleaning beaches for as long as necessary,' Captain van Wijngaarden said.

Booms have been put in place today to protect Maketu Estuary from possible oil pollution.

Capt van Wijngaarden said contingency planning was continuing to ensure the oil spill response team was ready for another significant release of oil.

Calm conditions around Astrolabe Reef this morning allowed these close up photos of the Rena’s stern to be taken.
New Zealand Defence Force

A container ship similar to the Rena - showing the normal view of such a vessel

Rena Update (#42)

Relatively calm weather has allowed on-going pumping of oil from the vessel Rena today, while clean-up operations continue at various points along the coastline.

There have been no significant leaks of fresh oil from Rena for 11 days, which means that most of the oil coming ashore is remobilised oil – oil that has come in, washed out and then come ashore again with the tide.

The amount of oil removed from Rena in the past 24 hours will be provided later this afternoon. As of yesterday afternoon 171 tonnes had been transferred from the largest (772 tonne) tank to the tanker Awanuia.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Bruce Anderson said pumping had been at varying rates, but the salvors were making steady progress.

The clean-up events today are occurring at five main points along about 30km of coastline, with the remotest at Waihau Bay, about 200km from Tauranga.

Operation Beach Clean volunteers Manager Pim de Monchy said there was great enthusiasm among the volunteers.

'Initially there was frustration – and of course anger that this happened. Two weeks on there’s still plenty of ‘how and why’ but also a reluctant acceptance and, most significantly, a determination to fix it.
'That attitude is going to be the key to clean beaches when the last of the oil has come ashore. We’re limited at present, because there’s no point going too far below the sand surface, given the possibility of significant further contamination.'

Volunteers are advised a day in advance where to go and when. They are then trained in how best to collect the oil and then go to their designated area with a group leader, usually for about four hours.
Mr de Monchy said people should not be disappointed if they are not immediately called into action.
'We are extremely grateful – be assured your time will come.'

National On Scene Commander Alex van Wijngaarden urged people to heed public health warnings, even if they can’t see oil.

'Don’t swim, don’t catch fish from contaminated areas and don’t take shellfish because there will still be residual oil in the environment - and don’t touch the contents of beached containers, because if they contain perishables they are going to be an extreme health risk.

'Similarly, boaties need to heed navigation hazard warnings, because there are still about 40 containers unaccounted for. We know some or many of them will have sunk, but some may be floating or partially submerged and these obviously represent a significant hazard to all vessels, but particularly relatively small pleasure craft.'

Further public health information is available at http://www.toiteorapublichealth.govt.nz/rena_public.
Members of the public should ring 0800 OIL SPILL if they find any oiled areas.

Rena Update (#41)

Fuel pumping on board the vessel Rena continued overnight and weather conditions look good for operations today, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.

The salvage team confirmed yesterday afternoon that a total of 171 tonnes of the 772 tonnes in the port number 5 tank on Rena had been transferred to the tanker Awanuia. This figure will be updated this afternoon.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Bruce Anderson said despite concerns weather might force the operation to stop overnight, the conditions had remained safe for salvors to remain on the vessel and they had maintained a continuous flow of fuel pumping through the night.

'The flow is still slow but at least we are seeing a continuous pumping operation – this was the first priority for the team and that has been maintained. The focus for today will be to get more salvors on board and work on speeding up the flow rate.

Mr Anderson said the forecast was for good weather over the long weekend.

National On Scene Commander Alex van Wijngaarden said there had been no significant leaks of fresh oil from the ship since 11 October.

'This means the oil we are seeing on the coastline is remobilised – or oil that has washed out and back again with the tide.

'The oil spill response team is continuing to monitor and map the progress of this oil, while clean-up teams are out on the beaches cleaning and re-cleaning.'

Captain van Wijngaarden said oiled debris was coming ashore at natural collection points in the eastern Bay of Plenty and this was also a focus area for clean-up crews.

Wildlife teams were also in the field out on the East Cape. A total of 285 live birds are being cared for at the Wildlife Response Centre in Te Maunga.

Long term enclosures are being built for the little blue penguins at the centre – these will eventually house clean birds until it is safe to release them back into the wild.

The Mount Maunganui beach from the base track through to Tay Street is now open for public access.
However, Capt van Wijnngaarden reminded the public to use caution when they headed to the beach.
'While the beach has been cleaned and re-cleaned, there is still residual oil in the environment and the water. Please use caution and follow advice from public health authorities.'

Further public health information is available at http://www.toiteorapublichealth.govt.nz/rena_public.
Members of the public should ring 0800 OIL SPILL if they find any oiled areas.