Rena staying intact after rough weather

By Bay of Plenty Times, APNZ

Officials hope the last oil tank on the Rena will not rip open if the ship smashes apart overnight. Photo / Maritime New Zealand
Officials hope the last oil tank on the Rena will not rip open if the ship smashes apart overnight. Photo / Maritime New Zealand

Grounded vessel Rena has remained intact in spite of fears rough weather could further damage the ship.

Three salvage teams are back onboard tonight to assess the vessel after bad weather forced them off on Monday.

Oil spill response and salvage teams were on heightened alert overnight in anticipation of strong winds and heavy swells, but were able to return to the ship after the weather cleared mid-morning, said MNZ salvage unit manager Bruce Anderson.

Salvage company Svitzer now has nine people onboard the Rena.

"They will first make sure the vessel is safe to work on and will then work on re-establishing onboard systems for fuel removal, he said.

"One team is focusing on re-establishing the dive station, so a team can recommence work on accessing the starboard tank. A second team is pumping the residual lubricants and oils in the engine room to a centralised tank - this will make it easier to pump those oils on to the Awanuia once that vessel is back on site,'' said Mr Anderson.''

The barge Awanuia would return to the Rena when weather conditions allowed.

Mr Anderson said the forecast was for moderate to strong winds, with some further bad weather due to come through on Friday.

However, the salvage team would continue to take advantage of the relatively calm weather while they could.

National On Scene Commander Mick Courtnell said there was a plan to return to peak operating level and they were ready to respond as needed.''

There have been reports of oil in the water at Mount Maunganui beach today, and they would be followed up by shoreline assessment teams tomorrow.

It was likely it was "remobilise'' oil that had previously been buried in sand or submerged, and had been washed out by the storm overnight, Mr Courtnell said.

Meanwhile, fresh charges were laid today against the captain and navigational watch officer in relation to the Rena oil spill disaster.

Both men, who have name suppression, each faced one charge under section 338 (1B) of the Resource Management Act 1991 relating to the discharge of harmful substances from the ship.

They had been charged earlier by Maritime New Zealand under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act 1994 for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk.

The pair were back in Tauranga District Court this morning facing a further charge under the RMA.

Court documents reveal that the captain has been charged with being the master of a ship from which harmful substances and/or contaminants were discharged into a coastal marine area.

The second officer is charged with being responsible for the watch of a ship from which the same offence occurred.

Judge Wolff further remanded the two defendants on bail until December 21, and confirmed the suppression orders in place would continue until further notice.

- APNZ

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