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RENA update from Maritime NZ (147)

Monday, 7 November 2011 5:30 p.m.

Salvors are in the final stages of preparing to begin pumping heavy fuel oil from the submerged number 5 starboard wing tank, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) said.

Salvage Unit Manager Kenny Crawford said that the salvors had finished filling the tank with seawater to lift oil to the top but still had four lengths of hose to place and a 90kg pump to manhandle into position. He said it was possible pumping could begin tonight.

In another significant milestone, salvors have completed pumping all the used lubricating oil off the Rena and have begun pumping clean lubricating oil directly into the tug Go Canopus, moored alongside.

Salvors have attached 35 underwater locator beacons to the most vulnerable containers on board the Rena so they can be located and recovered, should they be lost overboard. A further 200 of the transponders are on their way to Tauranga from the USA.

National On Scene Commander Rob Service said that operations to clean up areas of oiled beach were continuing with 50 people working around the base of Mount Maunganui today. They included NZ Defence Force personnel, trained oil spill responders from around New Zealand and a contingent of trained personnel from Australia. Thirty contractors were cleaning beaches between Harrison's Cut and Papamoa today, while a total of 80 volunteers took part in separate clean-up events at Papamoa and Maketu.

Two hand-operated sets of beach grooming equipment are in now use, with trials of a different set of equipment beginning today, Mr Service said.

Five shoreline assessment teams were working between Mount Maunganui and Maketu, with another on Matakana Island. Oiled wildlife response teams will be patrolling Mount Maunganui tonight, looking for oiled birds.

Work to remove containers from the Rena will not begin until all the oil has been removed, but the container barge ST60 will start trials in the Bay of Plenty this week. Braemar Howells continues to carry out sonar searches of the seabed to locate containers lost overboard from the Rena during the storm three weeks ago. Anyone finding container debris is asked to report this on 0800 OILSPILL

Associate Transport Minister Nathan Guy was in Tauranga today for a briefing on the salvage operation, the oil spill response and container recovery. He also visited the oiled wildlife facility today. Mr Guy said it was "fantastic" that pumping would soon begin from the number 5 starboard tank, but cautioned that the Rena's condition continued to deteriorate. "At any time the circumstances could change, and that could be from weather factors or the structural state of the Rena," he said at today's press conference.


Salvors on deck 2