The Rena disaster has had one small spin-off for the Port of Tauranga amidst all the gloom and doom.
Maritime New Zealand was using the bunkering barge Awanuia to take the fuel pumped off the Rena, meaning the barge could not refuel ships at its home port of Auckland. Some ships were now being diverted to Tauranga for refuelling (bunkering).
Port of Tauranga marine services manager Nigel Drake said they had not kept count of the ships that had arrived purely for bunkering from Auckland.
Ironically, one of the ships that did bunker at Tauranga because the Awanuia was not at Auckland, the Schelde Trader, grounded on rocks off Mauao after she lost power departing the port on October 28. The ship was towed off and was able to resume its voyage two days later.
Mr Drake said a lot of ships going around the coast ended up coming to Tauranga as their last port of call and bunkered here. The ships that were being diverted for bunkering in Tauranga were mainly ships that would have left Auckland for overseas or were on their way to Auckland and would not scheduled to come to Tauranga.
Mobil's depot in Tauranga reported no major change to the number of ships bunkering at the port because vessels could still bunker at their last overseas port before reaching New Zealand waters or call in at the Marsden Point refinery.
Z Energy, which charters Awanuia from Ports of Auckland, said the bunkering barge played an important role at Ports of Auckland, particularly refuelling large cruise liners.
The only reason they had been able to make the Awanuia available for the Rena was the patience of Z Energy's marine customers who have had to make alternative arrangements. It included refuelling with more expensive diesel at Auckland or filling up at other ports, including Australian ports.
Some had been redirected to Tauranga although spokesman Jonathan Hill said he was loathe to say how many.