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RENA update from Maritime NZ (160)

Monday, 14 November 2011 10:30 a.m.

The crane barge Sea Tow 60 (ST60) is on its way to take up position at the stern of the container ship Rena, to begin preparations for container recovery, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Arthur Jobard said the barge was expected to take at least a day to establish its position and ensure its systems are ready to begin what will be a complex operation.

"The salvage team will begin with the containers at the stern," Mr Jobard said.

"Each container is likely to present its own challenges, so it will be a slow methodical process."

Mr Jobard said once removed, the containers would be taken to a base established by salvors on shore, at Truman Lane, Te Maunga.

"The cargo will be removed, and the containers will be cleaned. All waste will be disposed of appropriately.

"At all times, the containers will be secure and handled carefully to ensure they do not create any secondary contamination threat."

Mr Jobard said the Smit Borneo, a 110m crane barge with a longer reach than the ST60, was making good progress and due to arrive in Tauranga from Singapore around 5 December.

"The Smit Borneo will be used to access containers towards the bow of the ship, which are beyond the reach of the ST60," Mr Jobard said.

Salvors were also continuing to strip the last of the residual oil on the ship. This work would continue for some time, to ensure all the accessible oil left on Rena was removed.

National On Scene Commander Mick Courtnell said the oil spill response team was in a transition phase, following confirmation that the bulk of the oil was now off the ship.

"We remain ready to respond in the event any of the residual oil spills and comes ashore," Mr Courtnell said.

"However, with the bulk of the oil now off the beaches, our shoreline teams are doing more detailed, targeted work, to remove the persistent and residual oil on rocks and buried in the sand.

"We have our skilled shoreline clean-up experts out there today closely examining areas of beach that still have significant levels of oiling present.

"We will then be focusing our operations on removing those more persistent patches of oil."

Mr Courtnell said the work was likely to continue for some time.

"It's being led by oil spill response experts who will be looking at a range of options to remove the last of the oil.

"We've already seen different techniques, such as surf washing and beach cleaning machinery, being used to get these beaches clean. We will be continuing to assess, clean and re-clean as long as we need to."

Container recovery by crane