Salvors have removed 645 tonnes of oil from stricken container ship the Rena.
The ship grounded on Astrolabe Reef, off the coast of Tauranga, on October 5. Oil spewed from the vessel on October 11, prompting a massive clean up of beaches in the area, and salvors have been trying to get oil off it.
Maritime New Zealand salvage unit manager Bruce Anderson said 645 of the 772 tonnes in port number five tank had been removed by 3pm today.
"This figure is the amount pumped off in total since pumping operations began," Mr Anderson said.
That left about 700 tonnes still onboard, in four different tanks.
Mr Anderson said earlier today two booster pumps installed on Sunday afternoon had sped up the pumping rate from the port tank, and the salvage teams were continuing to work on ways to extract oil from the submerged starboard tank and two settling tanks in the engine room.
The salvors loaded more equipment on the ship yesterday afternoon, including a lighting system.
"This is important, because they have been working in dark, oily corridors, which is clearly risky and challenging," he said.
"The lighting will make the working environment safer for the teams on board. They have also loaded heavy duty compressors to aid the pumping system."
Oiled penguins get a new home
Little blue penguins affected by the Rena oil spill will soon have a new home in which to recover and rebuild their strength.
A new enclosure at the wildlife response centre at Te Maunga is close to completion, with builders aiming to finish three of the planned 10 aviaries by this afternoon.
About 25 penguins can be housed in each aviary, which will have indoor pools and communal areas for the penguins to preen, feed and swim.
Oiled wildlife response manager Kerri Morgan said the enclosures would be able to house the 314 penguins in the centre's care more comfortably in the long term.
"It is too early at the moment to say when they can be released, but we want to ensure all the penguins are healthy and well nourished before this takes place.''
The penguins are fed carefully twice a day, eating five to seven fish per feeding.
"We use either sprats or anchovies and need to ensure that none of the natural oils from the fish get on the birds' feathers as this can damage their natural waterproofing,'' Ms Morgan said.
"The penguins are all doing really well and have a great fighting spirit.''
The penguins have one swim a day to let them condition and preen their feathers, which is crucial to re-waterproofing.
The centre had a total of 379 live birds in its care this morning.
Clean birds included 60 New Zealand dotterels caught pre-emptively, one shearwater, one tern, three pied shags and 206 little blue penguins.
There were also 108 oiled little blue penguins in the centre's care.
The number of dead birds was at 1370 last night, with post-mortem examinations being carried out to determine if oiling was the cause of death.
Wildlife response teams have been sent to assess how best to protect wildlife on Tuhua/Mayor Island, where the five to 10 tonnes of oil that spilled from the Rena on Saturday was forecast to head later this week.
National on-scene commander Rob Service said teams were continuing to track that oil, which was still near the Rena and was breaking down and weathering.
No oil has spilled from the ship since Saturday night and there was only a thin film remaining in the area surrounding the vessel.