Containers are again being removed from stricken ship Rena - the first time since it broke apart in rough seas 10 days ago.

A barge alongside the port side of the bow today removed the first container after 10 days of halted rescue efforts.

Maritime New Zealand salvage unit manager Kenny Crawford said removal of containers from the bow of the vessel was the priority.

"The helicopter removal of milk powder emptied from a container this week has been suspended, as the crane barge and helicopter cannot operate in the same area at the same time."


The ship has largely slipped beneath the waves since breaking apart, more than three months after it ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef in October.

Before it split 397 containers had been removed. About 500 are unacconted for but salvage experts Svitzer are unable to establish how many are still onboard because it is too hazardous to dive into parts of the bow and stern.

Oil clean-ups continued today at Mt Maunganui and Matakana and Leisure islands. There has been no sign of oil at Motiti Island.

Meanwhile, a cautionary area which advised boaties to stay off the water in the western Bay of Plenty has been lifted.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council harbourmaster issued the caution last week after significant amounts of debris and containers started floating in the water.

The decision to lift the caution was based on information that the debris and containers have washed up on beaches, been collected at sea or left western Bay of Plenty coastal waters.

A three-nautical mile exclusion zone still remained in place around the Astrolabe Reef.