Maritime NZ - Rena Disaster - 2 November: Salvage teams back on board

Over the Rena site 9.35am 2 November 2011 Photo: Graeme Brown

Maritime NZ, on Wednesday 2 November, 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 #71

Three salvage teams are back on board the stricken Rena, after bad weather forced them off the ship on Monday, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.

Oil spill response and salvage teams were on heightened alert overnight, in anticipation of bad weather and heavy swells. However, Rena remained intact in the same position on the reef and aerial observation this morning confirmed no further damage to the ship or additional containers washed overboard.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Bruce Anderson said after the weather cleared around mid-morning today, a team of salvors went on board to assess the safety of the vessel.

'Svitzer now has nine people on board,' Mr Anderson said.

'They will first make sure the vessel is safe to work on and then they’ll be working on re-establishing all their on-board systems for fuel removal.

Over the Rena site 9.35am 2 November 2011 Photo: Graeme Brown

'One team is focusing on re-establishing the dive station, so a team can recommence work on accessing the starboard tank. A second team is pumping the residual lubricants and oils in the engine room to a centralised tank – this will make it easier to pump those oils on to the Awanuia once that vessel is back on site.'

Awanuia would return to the Rena when weather conditions allowed.

Mr Anderson said the forecast was for moderate to strong winds, with some further bad weather due to come through on Friday. However, the salvage team would continue to take advantage of the relatively calm weather while they could.

National On Scene Commander Mick Courtnell said the heightened alert overnight had proven a good test of the oil spill response team’s ability to rapidly escalate in order to meet increased risk.

Over the Rena site 9.35am 2 November 2011 Photo: Graeme Brown

'We were ready to respond across the board to another significant release of oil from the ship,' Mr Courtnell said.

'We have a good plan to go back to peak operating level when needed and this was a good test for us. We have the people, the plans and the equipment in place ready to respond as needed.'

Mr Courtnell said there had been reports of oil in the water at Mount Maunganui beach today, and they would be followed up by shoreline assessment teams tomorrow.

He said it was likely the oil was 'remobilised' – oil that had previously been buried in sand, or submerged and had been washed out by the storm overnight.

Over the Rena site 9.35am 2 November 2011 Photo: Graeme Brown

'As always, our advice to people on the beaches and in the water is to avoid the oil and to report it. We really appreciate the information we are receiving from the public about oil sightings.

'There is residual oil in the water and on the beaches – if people have concerns about how this might affect their health, they should consult the public health website for further information.'

Public health information is available at http://www.toiteorapublichealth.govt.nz/rena_public.

Over the Rena site 9.35am 2 November 2011 Photo: Graeme Brown