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RENA update from Maritime NZ (202)

Friday, 13 January 2012 10:30 a.m.

Oil spill responders are continuing to scour beaches east of Maketū for oil predicted to strand overnight, but have so far found only a small amount of oiled debris, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.

National On Scene Commander Rob Service said the shoreline clean-up assessment teams were out at first light this morning, and teams of responders are ready to follow up any reports of oil coming ashore.

"Fortunately, so far we have seen no sign of the forecast oil reaching the shoreline," Mr Service said.

"This is potentially because of the rough sea conditions we have seen over previous days - this will have helped the oil break down naturally.

"It is likely we will see fresh oil reaching shorelines at some point, but it is likely to be in small quantities. We are ready to deal with whatever comes ashore."

Mr Service said clean-up teams were out on Matakana Island, Mount Maunganui and Leisure Island today. Teams would also be checking on the booms at Maketū, Little Waihi and Waitahanui.

An oil spill response observation flight this morning had confirmed a light sheen continuing to stretch from the wreck. It was considered likely that a dark patch identified south of Motītī yesterday was algal bloom rather than oil, but the team was continuing to monitor it.

No visible oil sheen was seen approaching the shoreline east of Maketū.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager David Billington said the conditions around the reef remained too rough for salvage operations to resume.

"Although it's calm on shore, our flight this morning confirmed winds of around 25 knots out at the Astrolabe Reef and a rough sea state," Mr Billington said.

Mr Billington said these conditions were set to peak today with strong winds and maximum wave heights of 5m. The conditions were expected to ease over the weekend, with wave heights of around 1m on Sunday.

Svitzer salvors had attached extra lashings to the containers on Rena's bow to ensure they were secure ahead of the rough weather.

Braemar Howells container recovery teams were continuing operations at sea in spite of the rough weather forecast, and aimed to have 12 vessels in action for as long as possible, Mr Billington said.

On shore, a team would sweep Waihi Beach today to ensure that all containers and debris have been removed from it.

Eleven containers have been removed from the Waih iBeach area, with six remaining to be recovered.

Operations were continuing atMatakanaIslandwhere 11 containers remain beached - Braemar Howells teams were working with iwi to recover these when weather conditions permit.

Teams were also working on Motītī Island.

Mr Billington said there were reports of debris washing onto the rocks around the Mount and said the recovery team would tackle this today, along with more reports of debris near Kaituna Cut.

Braemar staff would also visit Pukehina to assess the situation there today.

Mr Billington said Braemar Howells had acted quickly to secure a container of plastic beads which had come ashore onMatakanaIsland. The container held 660 bags, containing nearly 17 tonnes of the beads.

The beads are 2-3mm translucent polymer bead used in the plastics industry.

The beads potentially pose a threat to wildlife, which may ingest them. Braemar Howells advises urgent steps have been taken to try and stop any more beads escaping into the environment.

The wildlife team has no confirmed cases of wildlife affected by debris to date, but is following up on reports of birds ingesting plastic beads.

Swell at Rena - 12 January 2012