RENA Update from Maritime NZ (161)
Monday, 14 November 2011 6:30 p.m.
The crane barge Sea Tow 60 (ST60) is now moored at the stern of the grounded ship Rena and is testing equipment before beginning the operation to remove containers, says Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).
MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Arthur Jobard said testing of the ST60's cranes had begun, and could take one to two days before containers could start being taken off the Rena.
"The salvors are taking this time to make sure that all the equipment and systems are ready and working properly before commencing operations. They also need good, calm weather to operate effectively, with safety being the top priority," Mr Jobard said.
"Once the testing has been successfully completed, the salvors will be lowering men down in a cage to ready the containers for removal. However, as we have seen with this entire operation so far, the speed at which the salvage team can work depends on many different factors. This includes weather and how complex it proves to be to access the containers, many of which are badly damaged and in very precarious positions."
Mr Jobard said adding to the operation's complexity was the fact that salvors had to design a system for decoupling the containers, and work out the best and safest way for doing this, given the difficult lean of the ship and the position of the containers.
"Each set of containers will present its own unique challenges" said Mr Jobard. "This means it is impossible to predict exactly how long it will take to safely remove all of the containers on board - but realistically, it is likely to take several months of patient and careful work."
Mr Jobard said the Rena was still in an unstable [M1]position, which meant it was possible the vessel could break up before all containers were offloaded. If this happened, the salvors and container retrieval company Braemar Howells were prepared to deal with them.
Mr Jobard said another, larger crane barge, Smit Borneo, was on its way from Singapore to assist in the operation. "It is making good speed and is expected to be here by early December. Its cranes have greater reach and more accommodation room on board for the salvors, so we would hope to be able to speed up container removal operations."
While containers were being removed, remaining pockets of oil would also be extracted from areas it was possible to gain access to, he said.
National On Scene Commander Mick Courtnell said an announcement
would be made tomorrow regarding lifting of the current beach
With the bulk of the oil removed from the Rena and no fresh oil coming ashore, responders were turning their attention to removing more "stubborn" oil from rocky areas, he said.
MNZ was also taking the opportunity to scale back parts of the response, but could ramp up again quickly if required.
"While getting the bulk of the oil off the Rena is a significant milestone, our job isn't done yet. We are making sure that are ready to respond if there is any spill of the oil left on the ship in this next phase of the operation," Mr Courtnell said.