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RENA Response Escalates 11

Thursday, 6 October 2011 8:00 p.m.

The response to a spill from the cargo vessel Rena, currently stranded on Astrolabe Reef near Tauranga Harbour, has escalated this afternoon, following confirmation that dispersant applied to the oil slick is proving to be ineffective.

National On Scene Commander Rob Service said an observation flight this afternoon had identified a significant oil slick remained. It was still unknown how much oil had spilt from the vessel.

Mr Service said despite initial indications that dispersant testing had proved effective, further analysis had confirmed the Corexit 9500 was not dispersing the oil.

Other dispersant options were being considered, but the response team was also preparing for an on-water recovery operation, which will see oil being scooped off the water by teams on vessels using specialist equipment.

"Extra equipment and people will be arriving overnight and tomorrow to run a recovery operation. We must also prepare for a potential shoreline clean-up," said Mr Service.

"We will have shoreline assessment teams on Papamoa Beach tomorrow, doing pre-clean surveys, which means identifying vulnerable areas and assessing clean up options. There will also be wildlife teams on the shores of Motiti Island and Maketu Peninsula, identifying any affected wildlife."

Mr Service said reports of oil heading towards Tuhua (Mayor) Island were incorrect. An observation flight this afternoon confirmed no oil in the vicinity of the island, which is a marine reserve.

Despite the levels of oil apparent in the water, the fuel tanks on the vessel were still intact, with the majority of the 1700 cubic metres of fuel oil on board held within them.

Salvors were on board the vessel examining how best to resolve the situation.

"Their priority at this stage is to remove the fuel from the vessel to prevent it causing further damage," Mr Service said.

"We are aware this situation is causing concern, particularly for Bay of Plenty residents. The situation is being managed in accordance with the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan and international best practice.

"Our professional and expert MNZ team is being further supported by international advisors with extensive experience in oil spill response."

Please see www.maritimenz.govt.nz/incident for more information, questions and answers, fly-over images of the site and information on New Zealand's oil spill response system.

Rena 4