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RENA update from Maritime NZ (159)

Sunday, 13 November 2011 5:30 p.m.

The crane barge, Sea Tow 60, will be heading out of the Port of Tauranga tomorrow morning to position itself next to the grounded container ship Rena in readiness for starting the container removal phase of the response operation, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Arthur Jobard said almost all of the bulk heavy fuel oil has now been removed from the ship and pumped to the oil tanker Awanuia,which today returned to the Port of Tauranga.

"This is a key milestone and signals a shift in the focus of the operation," he says.

"We are now in the second phase, with the salvors focusing on 'stripping' the last of the accessible and pumpable oil from the ship. This can be done in parallel with the container removal."

Mr Jobard said around 60 tonnes of oil remains in the starboard number 5 tank, with 319 tonnes pumped off. 

"Around 10 percent of the amount pumped off was water mixed with the oil, so that is why we estimate about 60 tonnes still remain of the 358 tonnes originally in the tank. The salvors have reached the interface between the oil and the water so the remaining oil will have to be slowly extracted over the next few days," he said.

The oily waste from the engine room was also still being recovered, along with remnants of oil left in the number 5 port tank. 

All the remaining oil will be pumped to the tug Go Canopus which is back in position next to Rena. 

"The next step is to carefully measure how much oil is on the Awanuia to get a more accurate figure of what has come off the ship in total," said MNZ expert salvage advisor, Jon Walker.

National On Scene Commander Mick Courtnell says there is a great sense of relief amongst the oil pollution response team, now that almost all of the heavy fuel oil is safely off the ship.

 "We have been working towards this outcome for weeks so the sense of relief is enormous.

"We really take heart in this progress. Our oil spill response team has been doing painstaking work over the past few weeks, cleaning and re-cleaning, all the while being prepared for another big spill at any moment.

"This is a huge achievement for the salvage operation - and a day that many of us were not sure we would reach," Mr Courtnell said.

"Having said that, we remain in a high state of readiness because there is still some oil in the duct keel and other parts of the ship that the salvors can't reach and that could leak out as we move through the next phase of the operation."

Mr Courtnell said he hoped to make an announcement on Tuesday regarding lifting the beach access restrictions.

Awanuia connected to Rena 21 Oct