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RENA Update from Maritime NZ (149)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011 6:30 p.m.

More seawater is being pumped into the submerged number 5 starboard wing tank on the Rena to purge pockets of air that have so far prevented heavy fuel oil from being pumped onto the tanker Awanuia, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) said.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Kenny Crawford said that all the equipment was in place to start pumping oil once the air pockets had been eliminated. Divers placed a third hot tap in the side of the tank this morning to increase the flow of seawater and the tank was being monitored continuously.

Twenty salvors are working on the Rena. As well as working on the number 5 starboard tank, they have removed over 20 tonnes of clean lubricating oil onto the barge Go Canopus. They are continuing to consolidate smaller parcels of engine oil from different compartments to pump them off the Rena.

Today the container barge Sea Tow 60 (ST60) conducted sea trials, which included laying anchors to test the mooring systems that will be used when the barge begins removing containers from the Rena. The trials were held well away from the Rena so as not to interfere with the oil removal, Mr Crawford said. Early indications were that the trials had gone well and the barge was returning to port late this afternoon.

Container removal contractor Braemar Howells has two vessels conducting sonar sweeps of the seabed in areas where the water is 30m deep, or less. They are searching for containers that were lost overboard in the storm three weeks ago. Divers are checking items detected by the scans.

Wreckage of three containers has been removed from the Hicks Bay and Waihau area. Another two containers are yet to be removed from Motiti Island.

National On Scene Commander Rob Service said that five teams of New Zealand Defence Force personnel were working between Mount Maunganui and the Maketu Spit today, assessing the state of the beaches, while another contingent was continuing with rock flushing oil removal trials at Mount Maunganui.

A report of a large amount of oil at Waihi Beach had proved to be an algal bloom, Mr Service said. "At this time of year when there are warm temperatures and calm seas, algal blooms are quite common. We expect to receive more reports of 'oil' that turn out to be algae, but we will always check them out to make sure."

Teams from the oiled wildlife response have been patrolling beaches on the mainland and on Matakana Island again today, checking for oiled wildlife and responding to reports from the public.

About 50 people are working at the oiled wildlife facility, taking care of the 400 birds that have been cleaned, and the three still being treated. Mr Service said that of the birds were little blue penguins, which are being hand fed twice a day as well as weighed and checked regularly.

RENA Divers 3 November