Rena skipper's holiday time

By Kiri Gillespie

8 comments


On the anniversary of Rena's grounding, the captain responsible for New Zealand's largest maritime disaster is spending his birthday holidaying with family in Australia.

Speaking to the Bay of Plenty Times from the Philippines, Captain Mauro Balomaga's brother, Clodualdo Balomaga, said he did not know when his younger sibling would return.

Mauro Balomaga has taken his wife and five children to New South Wales a year to the day since he crashed the fully-laden 236m container ship on to Astrolabe Reef.

The grounding, which occurred on Balomaga's birthday, resulted in heavy fuel oil blanketing local beaches, hundreds of containers falling overboard and a plethora of dead marine life.

A year on, Rena's broken and rusted wreck remains wedged atop the reef as salvors cut pieces off bit by bit to remove the ship from the Bay's waterline.

In May, Balomaga, 44, and navigation officer Leonil Relon, 37, pleaded guilty in Tauranga District Court to 11 charges under the Resource Management Act, including as being the master of a ship from which harmful substances or contaminants were discharged into the coastal marine area, wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice, and altering ship documents.

The men were sentenced to seven months' jail but released a month ago and flown back to the Philippines.

It is not known yet what will happen to the ship's sunken stern or remaining bow section. Already the clean-up cost has been estimated at $50m, and taxpayers are likely to fork out at least $20m.

Clodualdo Balomaga, who lives about 20km from his younger brother, spoke to him this week. "Last night he talk to me and said to me he's okay. He said to me he's okay with his family."

This week, Clodualdo Balomaga said his brother was taking his wife and children away for his birthday.

"He is going to Dubbo ... they are preparing to go to Dubbo to visit our relatives."

Dubbo attracts tourists for the open-range Taronga Western Plains Zoo and a historic Dundullimal Homestead.

Clodualdo Balomaga said he did not know whether his brother would return to the maritime industry but the Rena captain did not seem to be worried about income.

At the time of the men's release from prison last month, the company confirmed their jobs had been kept open but would not be drawn on their future within the company.

Hugo Shanahan, spokesman for Rena's owners and insurers, said he was not able to say whether the captain's and navigation officer's jobs were still kept open for them, or whether Greek shipping company Costamare had funded the holiday before publication today.

Graeme Butler from Butler's Swim with Dolphins said he did not have any issue with the captain, despite losing 70 per cent of his business because of Rena's oil.

"He apologised in his statement in the courts and so did the mate. These guys would have just been gutted. That must have been the most incredible thing to every happened in a seaman's life."

Mr Butler said he had since travelled with three Filipino seamen and had received several apologies on behalf of the Filipino people for the Rena grounding.<inline type="poll" id="6089" align="outside"/>

"They are very compassionate people and many of them would have never wanted this to happen to anybody," Mr Butler said.

Rena Business Compensation Group spokesman also said he had no ill will toward the captain.

"He's done his bit through the courts and jail. I don't hold it personally."


 


 

- Bay of Plenty Times

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