Posted by Maritime New Zealand Update on 22/03/2012
Heavy weather in the Bay of Plenty over the past couple of days has resulted in a further deterioration of the stern and forward section of Rena. This has resulted in a release of an unknown number of containers, and a debris field trailing from the wreck site, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.
The Astrolabe Reef was hammered with swells of up to 6 metres overnight. Svitzer salvors have confirmed the list on the stern section of the wreck had reduced slightly as a result.
MNZ Tauranga Response and Recovery Manager David Billington said it was evident during an observation flight this morning that the bad weather event had resulted in damage to bulkheads at the front of the stern section and structural damage on the forward section of Rena. Bulkheads are like the internal walls of the ship.
“This has resulted in some containers and some debris going into the sea,” Mr Billington said.
“There is a light debris field of about 2 nautical miles stretching east south east of Rena. At the moment it is quite localised, but it is likely this will spread further out as the day progresses.”
The debris field contained bags of milk powder and timber. Two containers have been observed floating about 2km from the wreck.
Mr Billington said any boaties out on the water should keep a good look out and avoid the area between the wreck site and Motiti Island.
“There is timber in the water, which could certainly cause damage if vessels came into contact with it at speed. We advise all skippers to listen to the navigational warnings being put out by the harbourmaster, watch their speeds and keep a good lookout.
“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.
Container and debris recovery company Braemar Howells has this morning sent out a plane and fleet of vessels to respond to the latest release of containers and debris.
Two tug boats, a fast response vessel, one barge, and a plane are assessing the situation to determine whether sea conditions will allow debris collection to get under way.
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.
Salvors leave the Rena via a purpose built heli-pad. Photos courtesy LOC