The salvage of a commercial fishing boat which sank after hitting rocks in the Bay of Islands is progressing well and expected to be completed later today.

The 12m longliner Jan hit rocks near Howe Pt, on the Purerua Peninsula, about 4am on Monday.

Its three crew members were rescued by Coastguard after a sea and air search.

An initial attempt to remove the boat on Monday failed because it was wedged firmly into a small cove.

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A second attempt today, using divers, a sea crane and barges was more successful.

Harbourmaster Jim Lyle said several barge-loads of debris and most of the vessel had been removed by this afternoon. He expected the job would be completed before nightfall.

There were initial concerns about the 1600 litres of diesel on board. Mr Lyle said it was likely the diesel had escaped through the fuel tanks' breather tubes.

There was, however, no smell of diesel at the wreck yesterday morning and only a small trace on the surface. He expected it would dissipate quickly given the sea movement at the site and warm water temperature.

Maritime NZ is investigating the cause of the accident, which occurred on a calm night.