RENA update from Maritime NZ (232)
Thursday, 22 March 2012 5:00 p.m.
Maritime New Zealand is continuing to closely monitor the condition of the Rena, following recent deterioration of the front and rear sections of the wreck due to recent heavy weather.
The Astrolabe Reef was hit by with swells of up to 6 metres overnight, resulting in a slight change to the list on the stern section of the wreck.
MNZ Tauranga Response and Recovery Manager David Billington said the bad weather event had also resulted in damage to bulkheads at the front of the stern section and structural damage on the forward section of Rena. This had resulted in debris and a small number of containers going into the sea.
"This sort of movement and deterioration was not unexpected, given the rough weather conditions and that fact that the internal structure of the ship has been exposed to the elements for a long period."
Mr Billington said container and debris recovery company Braemar Howells had already collected one container containing milk powder by tug boat, north of Motiti Island, early this afternoon.
A plane, a fast response vessel, a barge and two tug boats were working at sea collecting floating debris. This included timber and packaged milk powder and members of the Braemar team were working to keep the debris from shipping channels, and to prevent as much as possible from reaching shore.
To date, 649 containers have been recovered ashore and a further 43 located. About 250 are estimated to remain below decks on the forward section of the vessel. However, obtaining an accurate count of how many containers are still to be recovered is extremely difficult, due to conditions around the wreck and the amount of container debris on the seafloor.
Mr Billington said navigational safety warnings also remained in place, and any vessels out on the water should keep a good look out and avoid the area between the wreck site and Motiti Island.
"We also encourage anyone who sees containers or debris in the water to call it in to the container hotline on 0800 333 771 - all information from the public will help us build a better picture of what's out there."
Mr Billington said the salvors were monitoring the vessel closely for further movement but it appeared settled for now. Weather conditions had eased and there was a 3-4m swell around the reef.
National On Scene Commander Rob Service said a light sheen of oil was stretching just under 1 nautical mile in an easterly direction from the wreck. Observers had also noted some dark patches of oil in the immediate vicinity of the wreck.
Mr Service said while the amount of oil seen coming from the wreck was small, there was the potential for some oil to come ashore. Shoreline Clean-up Assessment Teams had surveyed the beach between Leisure Island and Tay Street this morning and located small droplets of oil along the high tide mark.
Mr Service said these could be the result of the fresh release, or old oil being exposed due to the stormy weather. Members of the public are encouraged to ring the oil hotline on 0800 OIL SPILL (0800 645 774) to let the response team know.
"We'll be keeping a close eye on the movement of the sheen and our response team is ready for any fresh oil that reaches the shoreline," Mr Service said.