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RENA update from Maritime NZ (176)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011 10:30 a.m.

Containers have been a focus of concern in the grounding of the Rena, but for the little blue penguins released yesterday on Mt Maunganui beach, two unusual shipping containers were a life-saver - all thanks to some Kiwi ingenuity. 

Two twenty-foot containers were refurbished after the Jody F Millennium incident in 2002.  They were  fitted with facilities for washing and cleaning birds in oil spill crises.  The concept was realised by Bill Dwyer, technical advisor, facilities, for the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team. 

"This is a unique system in global response to wildlife emergencies and means we can be ready and cleaning birds within 30 minutes of the containers being put in place" says Mr Dwyer. 

"The containers are excellent for travel onNew Zealandroads and be can be manoeuvred around easily." 

The containers had a test run during the "seabird wreck" on the West Coast of the South Island in July, but this is the first time they have been used for an oil spill response.

"I'm really proud of how well it's worked. I got a call at 5.30am the day the Rena ran aground and by lunchtime the next day it was set up and working.

"We built up the rest of the response centre around the containers and having it going from that early stage really helped get the cleaning process moving."

In most oil spills, such as the Deepwater Horizon incident, an entire wildlife response centre has to be built from scratch. This can take days and even weeks and rescued birds have to wait to be cleaned.                                                                                                        

Bill's container idea began during the 2002 oil spill from the Jody F Millennium in Gisborne. He wanted to improve on the response time and develop a mobile wildlife-cleaning unit that could move to a disaster area quickly.

The containers can be hooked up to a mains electrical system, use a generator or even run from a caravan site. 

"While much of the focus of theRenagrounding has been about containers falling off the ship it is great to see containers have also been put to good use saving our wildlife with the help of a bit of Kiwi know-how" says Mr Dwyer.


This information, and more, is available from Maritime New Zealand at

Penguins re-enter their native habitat