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RENA Maritime NZ update (64)

Saturday, 15 October 2011 7:30 p.m.

MNZ Salvage Unit head Bruce Anderson today warned that the process of removing oil off the stricken container vessel Rena wouldn't be a quick or easy process.

"We have had great weather for the past two days and this has allowed the salvage crews to do a huge amount of preparation and make really good progress. It is anticipated that the pumps will be lowered into the tanks tomorrow.

"All going well, salvors should be able to start pumping tomorrow and are focusing on making sure it all works before any pumping begins."

However he warned that it was not a simple job. "It has been described by a salvage as one of the most difficult groundings he has dealt with."

"We should not underestimate how complex and dangerous this operation is.

"It appears the vessel is not as stable as we thought. Divers have indicated the stern is in a precarious situation as a portion of the vessel is still floating in deeper water, while the front of the vessel is firmly grounded on the reef. "

Mr Anderson said the work had to be done in a methodical way and safety constraints prevented operations continuing throughout the night.

National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn said there has been a massive effort on the beaches in the last 24 hours with over 2,000 people involved in clean-up, including New Zealand Defence Force personnel, national responders, trained volunteers and iwi.

Joe Harawira, iwi liaison said iwi were feeling more comfortable with the response. "Following on from the hui that have been held over the past few days, iwi are feeling empowered with knowledge and can think a little bit wider. They appreciate the inclusion and being able to give a cultural overview."

Iwi in Whakatane and further south are being consulted on clean-up plans in case the oil travels further south with the westerly winds.

Iwi are also assisting with advising on booming in and around the estuaries to protect sensitive areas.

"It appears the vessel is not as stable as we thought. Divers have indicated the stern is in a precarious situation as a portion of the vessel is still floating in deeper water, while the front of the vessel is firmly grounded on the reef. "

If the weather turns, oil from the original breaches may still leak out.

Clean-up operations

  • Earlier reports of oil on Whale Island were not confirmed by aerial surveillance undertaken today.
  • Members of the public who want to help are urged to go through the official volunteer programme.
  • There are situations where attempting to clean the beach without specialist knowledge can cause more harm than good. For example, the dunes along the coastal beaches in the Bay of Plenty have a wide variety of vegetation that is critical to the whole ecosystem.
  • Dune systems can be seriously damaged if people walk on them or handle them roughly.
  • Any cleaning of dunes along the coast will be done by trained responders using specific shoreline clean-up techniques that will cause the least environmental impact to these important plants.
  • There are now 4,700 registered volunteers.
  • More than 500 volunteers assisted today with beach clean ups at Mount Maunganui, Papamoa, Maketu, and Pukehina.
  • There have been 618 tonnes of oiled sandy waste recovered.
  • There are three clean-up sessions planned for tomorrow, two at Papamoa and one at Maketu.
  • There are also training sessions planned tomorrow at 10am at Torere Marae, and Waitotahi Surf Club and at 12 midday at Te Kaha Main Marae and Whangaparaoa Marae, so that the community can be ready to respond should the oil reach the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Over 100 people from Ohope and Matata have already been trained.
  • Volunteer coordinators at the incident command centre are rostering volunteers, so their assistance can be used effectively.


Salvage

  • There have been seven salvors working onboard Rena today.
  • It was expected that pumps would be lowered into the tanks today, however this is dependent on many factors such as weather, stability of the vessel, and the equipment.
  • As there are potentially noxious and hazardous gases in the tanks, environmental chemists were lowered on to Rena to make assessments.
  • The hole in the starboard side of Rena is about 60cm across, with quite jagged edges.
  • The tanker Awanuia has been again confirming drills today in anticipation of receiving oil from Rena.
  • The vessel is in a precarious position on the reef and not as stable as thought. Divers surveying the starboard side today have confirmed this.


Wildlife

  • DOC vessel Matariki has been out patrolling coast today and has inspected some of the smaller islands.
  • Motunau (Plate Island). Eleven seals were seen - half had some oil on them and were deemed to not require intervention. Local staff expected to see more seals, but did not land on the island to check all of area.
  • Motuhaku (Schooner Island) two seals seen - no oil.
  • One large mob of birds sighted south of Motunau, including 500 grey faced petrel - no oil seen on them.
  • Penguins have been sighted behaving normally within their regular habitat.
  • Lots of red-billed/black-backed gulls have been seen.
  • Team on Matariki thought birds were preening themselves more.
  • There are now 34 Dotterels in the wildlife facility.
  • There will be night operations tonight to recover Little Blue Penguins.
  • There are 140 live birds currently being treated.


Note: some of these figures are estimates, and are subject to change.
Operations

A new Whakatane support centre has been set up at the Whakatane offices of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

ALL media enquiries:
0800 774 554 (0800 SPILL INFO)
spill.media@mnz.govt.nz

International media call:
+64 27 812 7013  or  +64 27 815 4849  or  +64 27 820 4165.

Photo: Rena taken 15 October AM. Click on image for a high res version.

RENA Side 15 Oct AM Low res

RENA Side 15 Oct AM Low res