Rena Media Conference Update: 10 October - Oil comes ashore

Rena aground on Astralobe Reef
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The first globules of oil have come ashore on Mt Maunganui Beach from the Rena stuck on Astralobe Reef, off the Tauranga Coast.

The focus of this afternoon's media conference in Tauranga was aimed at warning the public to stay away from the oil deposits and the beaches generally.

Officials today said they would allow the oil to accumulate further before starting the uplift operation tomorrow morning on the low tide.

'Leave the oil to us' was the simple message.

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 oil removal operation from the Rena has ceased after starting at 2039hrs last night and pumped 10 tonnes before being stopped as a precautionary measure. It was not exactly explained what the need was for the precaution. Flow was not at the full rate.

The oiler Awanuia was bought alongside the Rena this morning at 0800hrs to recommence the off loading of oil, however the bow thrusters on the vessel overheated and the berthing operation had to be stopped.

Pumping of oil from damaged tanks into after tanks continues.

About 100 tonnes of oil are in the keel ducts of the Rena and cannot be accessed. Ten tonnes of oil have been taken off, a total of 1700 tonnes of heavy oil is aboard the Rena.

Gases are being removed from tanks to allow salvage crews into the tanks to locate other pumps to facilitate the oil removal to capped tanks aboard the Rena.

The estimates for the oil removal remain at 30-40 hours elapsed to complete the task. However that is dependent on a favourable weather window and being able to get the oiler alongside in the easterly seas.

Astralobe Reef is now being buffeted with easterly seas and swell generated by a weather system moving down the east coast but further offshore than initially projected.

Winds are gusting 30kts at Channel Island, about 50 nm north of Tauranga, and 50kts at Cape Reinga at the far north of New Zealand where the weather system has its origins. In Tauranga wind gusts are only 22kts ahead of the system. A Gale Warning is in force with predictions of 35kts in the area and two metre seas.

Officials today said they had sensors attached to the hull of the Rena to test hull deformation, and they had not shown any movement yet.

Officials for Maritime NZ had no comment to make on reports that Rena had been found to have a number of deficiencies in a check made in NZ on 28 September and had been detained for a day in Australia to allow other deficiencies to be rectified.

Two inquiries into the cause of the incident are continuing.