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RENA update from Maritime NZ (122)

Friday, 28 October 2011 7:00 p.m.

Two of the five fuel tanks on the Rena are now empty and pumping is continuing from tanks in the engine room.

Salvage Unit Manager Kenny Crawford said the 25-tonne port service tank had been emptied and almost all of the 770 tonnes from the port number five tank had been removed. More than half of the oil from one of the two settling tanks in the engine room has been pumped into the barge Awanuia, bringing the total oil removed from the Rena to 882 tonnes.

"Emptying two of the tanks is a significant milestone, given the state of the Rena," said Mr Crawford. "Almost 900 tonnes of oil has been removed now and hopefully by the end of tomorrow the salvors will have emptied the two settling tanks as well.

"The salvors are also making good progress on accessing the starboard number five tank, which is under water. The divers have created the first half of the coffer dam that will seal off the entrance to the tank, and are now working on the second half. Once this is done, they can begin pumping out the water and opening the hatch. It's hard, difficult and dangerous work for the divers who are working in oily water with little light."

National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn said while the Main Mt Manganui Beach down to Tay St would remain open this weekend, other local beaches would remain closed for the time being, as old oil continued to remobilise in the environment and come ashore, where it would be cleaned up.

Volunteer coordinator Pim de Monchy appealed for a big turnout of volunteers new and old for beach clean up operations over the weekend. Volunteer clean ups would continue tomorrow (Saturday) with one at the Papamoa Surf Club, another opposite the Logan Road beach access, Papamoa, and a third at the corner of Kulim Avenue and Harbour Drive, Otumoetai, all beginning at noon. More information is at /sustainable-communities/rena-oil-spill-volunteer-hub/.

"We know locals and people from further afield are keen to see more of the beaches reopened, but to achieve this, we need more registered volunteers helping out. The more help we can get, the more quickly we can get oil-affected beaches cleaned up and hopefully reopened for everyone to enjoy."

Meanwhile, in an unrelated incident, at 10.30am today the container shipSchelde Traderlost power while leaving Tauranga Harbour and struck rocks near the entrance. It has now been towed into the harbour. There were no reports of injuries, serious damage or oil leaks and the event had no impact on theRenaoperation.

In another separate incident, two Gray's beaked whales and a juvenile whale this afternoon stranded at Papamoa. National Oiled Wildlife Response Team Manager Brett Gartrell said none of the mammals had suffered oiling, but that the juvenile whale had died, with its cause of death being investigated by a wildlife pathologist. The two adult whales were being refloated by Department of Conservation staff with assistance from trained volunteers.

Salvors inside Rena (portrait)