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RENA Maritime NZ update (80)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011 8:00 p.m.

See below the latest update from Maritime NZ -

DATE: 18 October 2011        TIME: 7.15pm

Rena Update (#31)

Salvage efforts on board Rena are now entering a critical phase, as unfavourable weather conditions over the next 24 hours continue to affect operations and the movement of the ship.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Andrew Berry says the ship is in a dynamic situation and electronic sensor equipment on board continues to monitor its movement.

"The bow section is still sitting firmly on the reef, with the stern section showing some movement with the swell and tide. A closer inspection of the ship by MNZ advisors and naval architects this afternoon showed some movement and noise coming from the cracks on both sides of the vessel.

"We're in a critical place during the next 24 hours due to the weather. We have one tug still connected to the stern of Rena ready to respond should the ship break up, with two other tugs on standby."

Mr Berry says a range of response plans are in place to deal with a variety of potential scenarios should the ship's condition rapidly deteriorate, with salvage experts ready to respond day or night.

Strong winds of up to 35 knots (65km/h) and swells of 2-4m have hampered salvage efforts since late last night. There are currently no salvors on board Rena as the salvors, Svitzer, wait for weather conditions to improve before attempting to re-board the ship to recommence pumping on to Awanuia.

"Salvors really need an improvement in the weather before they can resume pumping the oil off the vessel. They also need to ensure that it is safe for them to re-board Rena, and are continuing to monitor and assess the movement and changes in the ship's position on the reef."

Mr Berry says the salvage crew remains on standby and flights will be made at first light tomorrow to assess any changes that may have occurred overnight.

To date, 88 containers from Rena have been lost overboard, with approximately 30 still unaccounted for. The remaining 58 containers have either landed ashore or been secured to buoys. Some containers on board are in a precarious position and strong winds forecast for tonight may cause more to be lost.

Meanwhile, beach clean-up activities have been scaled back today due to the poor weather and the fact most beaches are largely clear of oil. A small amount of fresh oil has come ashore this evening near Harrison's Cut along a 3km stretch of shoreline. Teams have been tasked to clean this oil tomorrow. Responders advise more oil is likely to land on the shoreline, depending on weather and the status of the ship over the coming days, and are prepared for this.

The Wildlife Response Centre has received 18 new intakes, bringing the total number in care to 253.

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