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RENA update from Maritime NZ (156)

Saturday, 12 November 2011 11:00 a.m.

Clean-up operations around the Bay of Plenty are continuing today, with oil spill responders heartened by the progress being made by salvors removing oil from the container ship Rena.

Salvors have been pumping oil continuously from the submerged starboard number 5 tank since Wednesday night, and were currently maintaining a rate of around 4 tonnes an hour, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) Salvage Unit Manager Arthur Jobard said.

However, this rate was expected to slow as the operation reached the point where the oil and seawater in the tank met.

National On Scene Commander Rob Service said oil spill response teams out in the field were encouraged by the good progress made by Svitzer's salvage team.

"Our teams have been out on the coastline all around the Bay of Plenty and have been hands on with the oil that has washed up on these shores," Mr Service said.

"We've seen regional council staff, New Zealand Defence Force personnel and, of course, volunteers working day in, day out removing oil from the beaches, all the while knowing there was the potential for another significant release.

"While that threat is not over, every drop of oil the salvors remove from the ship is another drop of oil we will not need to clean up. It's great news for us that we are getting closer to the point where the risk of another significant spill from Rena is gone."

Mr Service said teams were out throughout the Bay of Plenty today, on Matakana and Rabbit Islands, and at Mount Maunganui, Pāpāmoa and Maketū.

Oil spill response teams were focusing on areas where there were significant levels of oil in the sand and on rocky shorelines, to prevent it remobilising and affecting other areas.

Beach access restrictions remain in place from Tay Street to Maketū.

Mr Service said while he had hoped some access restrictions would be lifted this weekend, it was now likely that would happen next week.

"We have a process to follow before we can lift the access restrictions, including ongoing surveys and consultation with key parties.

"We know people want to get onto some of those beaches, but we can't rush in - we must ensure we have worked carefully through that process."

Mr Service also reminded recreational and commercial vessel owners to keep clear of the booms and other equipment being used in the Rena response, including the oil boom across Southeast Bay at Mayor Island.

A gap in the boom is marked with flashing lights at night and orange buoys during the day, and vessels should navigate with caution, he said.

The navigational maritime exclusion zone, set by the Regional Harbourmaster, remains in place. Details of the coordinates of the exclusion zone are available here.

 

This information and more is available from Maritime New Zealand at www.maritimenz.govt.nz.

Volunteers cleanup Maketu