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RENA update from Maritime NZ (157)

Saturday, 12 November 2011 6:00 p.m.

Nearly two thirds of the remaining heavy fuel oil left in the number 5 starboard tank on the container ship Rena has now been pumped off to the adjacent oil tanker Awanuia.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) Salvage Unit Manager Arthur Jobard said at 3pm today, a total of 225 tonnes of the 358 tonnes of heavy fuel oil in the number 5 starboard tank had been pumped off at an overall rate of 4 tonnes an hour.

He said the salvage team was now close to the end point of oil removal from the Rena, although stripping the remnants of accessible oil would go on for some time.

"But salvors are now shifting their focus to preparing for the removal of containers from the ship."

Mr Jobard said it could take a couple of days to get the container removal barge Sea Tow 60 moored in the right place so salvors could start safely removing the containers. A total of 466 containers remain on the deck of the ship, with 814 containers secured in holds below deck.

 "The oil removal has been complex and challenging work, taking some time. That will also be the case with the container removal process. The ship is wedged on the reef and parts of it are in shallow water, so it may take a couple of days to get the barge moored safely in the right spot. Mooring will be quite a big operation," he said.

MNZ National On Scene Commander Rob Service said everyone involved in theRenaresponse was "very heartened" by the news that nearly all the heavy fuel oil was off the ship, and that, weather permitting, the operation to remove the containers could begin next week.

 "That's really encouraging news for all the people who have been working long and hard hours on the clean-up operation," he said.

"There is still a lot of effort being put into clean-up operations with 300 people working in the field today from Waihi to Maketū and on the islands in the area. We also had 70 people working in the wildlife centre today with more than 400 live birds still in our care."

Tomorrow there will be clean-ups at Pāpāmoa and Maketū, but the Matakana Island event has been cancelled.

Mr Service said he should be in a position early next week to make a decision on opening up public access to restricted beaches. "We are still working through that process with iwi, local councils and public health authorities and assessing where we can lift any restrictions that are still in place," he said. "We are conscious that people are keen to see those remaining restrictions lifted as soon as possible and that's our aim too."