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RENA update from Maritime NZ (129)

Monday, 31 October 2011 4:30 p.m.

Salvage efforts on board the stricken Rena remain suspended because forecast sea conditions have made it unsafe for the salvors to continue working. A forecast sea state of swells totalling at least five metres in the next 24-48 hours is expected. 

Maritime New Zealand Salvage Unit Head Kenny Crawford says suspension of activity means there has been no further work on finishing the coffer dam, which is being installed to enable access to the no. 5 starboard tank. This tank holds some 358 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and is still under water. 

"The salvors have made great progress during the good weather window in recent days, but the swell yesterday forced them to stop work. Operations remain suspended, with the forecast for a significantly rougher sea state in the next few days." 

Mr Crawford says salvors have today focused on sealing the tanks and air vents on the vessel in case its condition should worsen. "This should help limit further release of oil in the worst-case scenario of the ship breaking up." 

As of yesterday afternoon, more than 1000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil had been removed fromRena, with four of the five main heavy fuel oil tanks empty. 

Mr Crawford says Rena is still in a precarious position, at the mercy of the weather and tides, with the forecast rough weather likely to mean that more containers could be lost overboard.

 Salvors Svitzer hope to attempt to fit tracking transponders to the accessible dangerous goods containers and other containers that are the most likely to be lost from the ship. 

National On Scene Commander Mick Courtnell says oil leakage fromRena's damaged duct keel and other pockets where it has been trapped is likely to continue and may worsen as the swell and tidal conditions deteriorate. 

"This may result in more oil coming ashore - but exactly where will depend on wind and tide conditions. We are however remaining vigilant and will be ready to respond if and when this happens." 

Mr Courtnell says the rough weather may help to aid the natural dispersion of some of the oil. 

To date, volunteers have given just over 11,000 hours of their time to assist in the response - the equivalent of one person working non-stop for five and a half years - which Mr Courtnell says is a fantastic achievement.

Rena on 18 October