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RENA Maritime NZ Update (115)

Wednesday, 26 October 2011 6:30 p.m.

The salvage team working on the grounded vessel Rena has removed 737 tonnes of fuel from the ship, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) confirmed today.

The figure is accurate to 12pm today and leaves around 650 tonnes of fuel on the vessel, distributed between the submerged starboard number 5 tank and three tanks in the engine room.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Bruce Anderson said pumping had temporarily stopped from the port number 5 tank this afternoon as salvors move the pump deeper into the tank.

"Most of the oil has been removed from that tank, so the fuel transfer rate out of there is slowing down," Mr Anderson said.

The salvage team had yesterday begun pumping fuel from the engine room tanks into the port number 5 tank but this had proved ineffective, Mr Anderson said.

Salvors were now working on a pumping system to take the fuel through a 4inch (about 10cm) hose and directly into the anchor-handling tug Go Canopus.

The tug was alongside Rena and work was underway to connect the pumping system.

A dive team was continuing to work on establishing a fuel transfer system for the number 5 starboard tank.

"This is really challenging as the tank is underwater and the team needs to create a water-tight space to work from," Mr Anderson said.

It was too early to put a timeframe on when the salvors would be able to start removing fuel from that tank.

National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn said in the three weeks since Rena grounded there had been a huge amount of work completed by members of the oil spill response team and the more than 6,700 volunteers who had put their hands up to help.

Mr Quinn said resurfacing oil had been identified by shoreline clean-up assessment teams from Papamoa to Maketu Spit today. Teams had also identified fresh light oiling around Mount Maunganui and Leisure Island.

"Our focus for the next couple of days will be to get clean-up crews down there cleaning that oil.

"We are expecting around 200 volunteers doing clean-ups at the Mount Maunganui main beach and Papamoa tomorrow.

"We do have to keep cleaning and re-cleaning until we get as much oil out of the environment as possible," Mr Quinn said.

Mr Quinn said about 120 Telecom workers joined the clean-up operation today and had done a great job.

"The feedback I'm getting from the team leaders who led these Telecom crews was that they did a fantastic job. It's hugely appreciated to see the business community getting behind the response."

The beaches east of Tay Street to Maketu Spit remain closed, and Mr Quinn said with the current levels of oil still in the environment, it was unlikely they would open in time for the weekend.

"We understand people want the beaches open, but we must make sure they are cleaned to an acceptable level. We also need to get agreement from public health before we re-open these beaches."

Salvors on deck 1