Maritime NZ - Rena Disaster - 26 October: Claims about breakup denied

On board Rena - Conditions on board are dangerous, with oily surfaces below deck and crushed containers overhead. Svitzer

Maritime NZ, on Wednesday 26 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.

Last night, TVNZ ran an alert on their 10pm news, and a comment on Twitter, saying the Rena was breaking up. This was an error at TVNZ’s end – they accidentally ran some pre-prepared material. They have since corrected the error.

This is incorrect – Rena’s condition has not changed since the last substantial change reported by MNZ around 12 October, when cracks appeared on the starboard side following bad weather.

Please note:
Svitzer is carefully monitoring the condition of the vessel. They have had crews on board Rena continuously since 20 October. These crews are watching for any significant signs of deterioration on the vessel, as is the team on board Awanauia. Svitzer also has motion sensors and real time GPS equipment monitoring the bow and stern. If they detect unusual movement that suggests a deterioration of the vessel’s condition, the on-board crews will be evacuated.

On board Rena - Access to the fuel tanks is limited, with small manholes the only entry and exit points. Svitzer


Rena Update #54

The salvage team working on the grounded vessel Rena has removed 737 tonnes of fuel from the ship, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) confirmed today.

The figure is accurate to 12pm today and leaves around 650 tonnes of fuel on the vessel, distributed between the submerged starboard number 5 tank and three tanks in the engine room.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Bruce Anderson said pumping had temporarily stopped from the port number 5 tank this afternoon as salvors move the pump deeper into the tank.

'Most of the oil has been removed from that tank, so the fuel transfer rate out of there is slowing down,' Mr Anderson said.

The salvage team had yesterday begun pumping fuel from the engine room tanks into the port number 5 tank but this had proved ineffective, Mr Anderson said.

Salvors were now working on a pumping system to take the fuel through a 4inch (about 10cm) hose and directly into the anchor-handling tug Go Canopus.

The tug was alongside Rena and work was underway to connect the pumping system.

A dive team was continuing to work on establishing a fuel transfer system for the number 5 starboard tank.

'This is really challenging as the tank is underwater and the team needs to create a water-tight space to work from,' Mr Anderson said.

It was too early to put a timeframe on when the salvors would be able to start removing fuel from that tank.

National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn said in the three weeks since Rena grounded there had been a huge amount of work completed by members of the oil spill response team and the more than 6,700 volunteers who had put their hands up to help.

Mr Quinn said resurfacing oil had been identified by shoreline clean-up assessment teams from Papamoa to Maketu Spit today. Teams had also identified fresh light oiling around Mount Maunganui and Leisure Island.

'Our focus for the next couple of days will be to get clean-up crews down there cleaning that oil.

'We are expecting around 200 volunteers doing clean-ups at the Mount Maunganui main beach and Papamoa tomorrow.

'We do have to keep cleaning and re-cleaning until we get as much oil out of the environment as possible,' Mr Quinn said.

Mr Quinn said about 120 Telecom workers joined the clean-up operation today and had done a great job.

'The feedback I’m getting from the team leaders who led these Telecom crews was that they did a fantastic job. It’s hugely appreciated to see the business community getting behind the response.'

The beaches east of Tay Street to Maketu Spit remain closed, and Mr Quinn said with the current levels of oil still in the environment, it was unlikely they would open in time for the weekend.

'We understand people want the beaches open, but we must make sure they are cleaned to an acceptable level. We also need to get agreement from public health before we re-open these beaches.'

Rena update #53

The removal of fuel from the cargo vessel Rena continued overnight with the salvage team confirming they are now past halfway.

There was around 1700 tonnes of fuel oil on Rena when it grounded on the Astrolabe Reef on 5 October. Around 350 tonnes has spilled from the ship, and as at 3pm yesterday a confirmed total of 645 tonnes had been transferred to the tanker Awanuia.

The salvage team will do an accurate calculation of the amount removed this afternoon. However, salvors estimate they passed the halfway point overnight.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) Salvage Unit Manager Bruce Anderson said it was encouraging to reach the milestone, but warned the second half of the fuel posed some serious challenges.

'The salvors now have the pumping system working well and they are getting good transfer rates, which is excellent.

'However, the second half of the oil is in around four tanks, rather than one – and one of them is submerged underwater.'

Mr Anderson said the salvors would be working today to establish a fuel transfer system from the three tanks in the engine room, which together hold around 250 tonnes of oil, to the tug Go Canopus.

The salvors are currently pumping from these tanks into the port number 5 tank and then onto Awanuia.

'Transferring the oil direct to Go Canopus will hopefully speed up the process,' Mr Anderson said.

National On Scene Commander Rob Service said the team at the incident command centre was continuing to prepare contingency planning in case the remnants of the 5-10 tonnes of oil released from the ship overnight on 22/23 October reached Tuhua/Mayor Island or the Coromandel.

On current projections, the remaining oil is not expected to reach land for two more days.

Mr Service said as the oil had now been in the water for several days, any remaining oil would be weathered and likely to wash up on shoreline as tar patties or tar balls.

Operational teams were going to both areas today to assess response options.

'We have a team going to Tuhua today to assess the use of booms to protect key areas. We have also sent teams to assess the impact any oil reaching the shore could have on wildlife.'

A wildlife stabilisation site had been set up on the island.