Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Rena thieves lose $2300-a-day jobs

The container ship Rena after striking the reef. Photo / Alan Gibson
The container ship Rena after striking the reef. Photo / Alan Gibson

Two divers working on the salvage of the Rena have been fired after helping themselves to wine inside one of the ship's containers.

Svitzer Salvage says the pair - believed to be Dutch - were "dismissed immediately" as soon as it learned wine had been stolen.

The divers were among a team of contractors who earn up to $2300 a day in often dangerous conditions.

Svitzer spokesman Matthew Watson could not say last night how much wine was taken - or how much was drunk - but believed the quantity was small.

"My understanding is that it wasn't a great amount. It's also not clear if the wine was returned or replaced, but either way, it will be returned or replaced. The bottom line is that what has happened is totally unacceptable."

The theft was brought to the company's attention internally, Mr Watson said.

"This is not the sort of activity that Svitzer can or will tolerate - and the company moved to deal with a totally unacceptable situation."

"There is absolutely no room for this sort of behaviour, and Svitzer dealt with it on the spot, in the most decisive way possible."

Mr Watson could not say whether charges would be laid against the men, who he said had been "sent packing".

He was also unable to say whether the wine belonged to Blenheim winemakers Astrolabe, whose company name proved a cruel irony when 4000 cases of its sauvignon blanc - worth about $800,000 - were on board the Rena when it crashed into the Astrolabe Reef.

Astrolabe general manager Jason Yank said some stock was in the rear section of the ship, which has since sunk, but he was unaware of any being stolen.

Inspector Karl Wright-St Clair said police were unaware of the incident.

The Maritime Union organiser at Port of Tauranga, Selwyn Russell, said that while he was not aware of all of the facts, the divers' actions were deplorable.

"It's not a good look."

- NZ Herald

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