Salvage crews have got back on board the stricken cargo ship Rena today, but pumping the oil off will not resume until tomorrow at the earliest as bad weather continues to thwart recovery efforts.

Drew Shannon of Svitzer Salvage said the four salvors onboard today would come off the ship tonight, when swells and wind were forecast to remain strong.

Workers would remain on-site throughout the night and return in the morning.

Mr Shannon said a large crack in the starboard side had widened over past days but the ship's condition had not significantly deteriorated further.

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However Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the Rena's position was "very precarious" and salvors were being forced to play a waiting game.

"We are hoping it holds together until such time as the oil pumping can start again tommorrow."

There had meanwhile been incidents of further oiling along the coastline and New Zealand Defence Force members were responding to reports of gumboot-sized patties washing up at the Maketu Spit.

Salvors had been unable to get onto the vessel for a day amid fears it would break up in heavy swells.

Salvage Unit Manager Andrew Berry said booster pumps had now been installed to speed up the rate of oil extraction from the vessel.

He said the team's focus was pumping out of a large port tank reported to contain about 700 tonnes of oil.

"Salvors will recommence pumping when weather and swell conditions allow this to be done safely."

Mr Berry said a light sheen of oil had been spotted moving southward from the Rena during aerial observations this morning.

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The stern section of the vessel had moved slightly since rough weather set in yesterday evening, while the bow remained firmly on the reef, he said.

Oil on the East Cape

Meanwhie, oil and containers that have tumbled from the stricken cargo ship have begun washing up more than 130 kilometres away on picturesque East Cape beaches.

Residents in the small town of Waihau Bay - the setting for the hit New Zealand movie Boy - have begun finding oil clumps, oil-covered logs and other debris on the coast.

Greenpeace said oil had also been found near the 375-resident town of Te Kaha, while a container had reportedly washed up in Te Araroa, at the northeast end of the East Cape.

Waihau Bay resident Ashley Procter said children from her town had gone down to help clean up the oil spill.

She said it was sad to see oil on the beautiful beach.

Volunteers at the Waihau Bay Fire Station were coordinating the clean up effort.

National On Scene Commander Ian Niblock confirmed oil-covered remains of containers had washed ashore at Te Kaha and Te Araroa this morning

A coastal navigation warning had been issued to include the East Cape, he said.

"Recovery teams have been sent to pick up this debris and it is possible that more debris may arrive. We are working closely with iwi in the area to coordinate the clean-up action taken."

Rena officers' names remain sceret

The identities of the captain and navigational officer of the stricken ship responsible for the country's largest environmental maritime disaster will remain secret after a lengthy legal wrangle in court today.

Name suppression remains in place for the 44-year-old Filipino captain and his 37-year-old navigation officer, both Filipino men, who appeared before Judge Robert Wolff in Tauranga District Court today.

A lawyer representing Herald publishers APN along with Fairfax, TVNZ and MediaWorks argued media should be able to publish the names and pictures of the pair, citing several cases.

But the captain's lawyer, Paul Mabey QC, argued if his client could not move safely, "there's a problem for him and for us".

"I'm simply asking that the orders continue until such time that the heat goes out of this and then we can review them, but now is the wrong time sir."

Judge Wolff allowed the orders to continue, saying their identities being published would only "underline the risk".

Their appearance came amid protest action against deep sea oil drilling around the city, where about 150 people marched down Tauranga's main street holding placards and chanting.

Both defendents were already facing charges under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act which relates to operating a vessel causing unnecessary danger or risk to a person or property.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of $10,000, or a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months.

Their appearance again drew a strong media presence, with about a dozen reporters, photographers and cameramen packed into the courthouse.

Both men have been ordered to surrender his passport and not to apply for any travel documents.

They will reappear in the court on November 2.

Protest ahead of captain's court appearance

The Rena disaster has helped boost interest in a court case against an Opotiki boat skipper facing charges over protest action against oil giant Petrobas.

44-year-old Elvis Heremaia Teddy's appearance today has coincided with the second appearance in court of the captain of the Rena.

About 30 protesters carrying placards reading "Kill the Drill" and "No Drill No Spill" gathered outside Tauranga District Court this morning to support him.

Teddy, as captain of Te Whanau a Apanui iwi-owned vessel San Pietro was arrested on April 23 amid protests against Petrobas on the East Cape.

He allegedly breached section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act, namely that he operated the vessel in a manner which caused unnecessary risk to the oil-drilling survey ship
Orient Explorer by breaching the exclusion zone around it.

He appears on the same day as the captain and navigational officer of the stricken Rena, which has caused New Zealand's largest maritime environmental disaster off the Tauranga coast.

Among those outside the court were Greenpeace respresentatives and Mana Party leader Hone Horawira, who told the protesters of the two captains in court today: "They should give one a gold medal and hang the other bugger."

Many shouted cries of support at the comment.

But, minutes later, he described the Rena's captain as "just a working boy" working for multinational companies.

Mr Harawira believed the Rena disaster was just a taste of what could happen if the Government allowed Petrobas to drill oil.

In court, Teddy's status hearing was adjourned until December 8 after his lawyer Glenn Dixon requested more time to read through a "significant amount" of documents.

Afterward, Teddy said the support shown was "awesome".

"Now that we've got oil down on our beaches, it's quite ironic.

"It's brought it to the fore and hopefully that will change a few peoples' minds here in Tauranga."

Several photographers and cameramen greeted him as he walked out of the courthouse amid chants and applause.

Company's remorse questioned

The lessees of the Rena have pledged a $1 million "donation" to aid the clean-up - an action that has left some questioning the company's remorse.

As the MV Rena crisis reached its most critical 24 hours amid a fresh oil spill and worsening weather yesterday, the heads of Mediterranean Shipping Company announced what they described as a "kind offering".

Authorities are today bracing themselves for the worst to happen with the ship.

Tug boats were in place around the Rena, in case the rugged sea conditions take their toll.

Swells continuing to batter the hulk, but are expected to ease later this afternoon.

Maritime New Zealand salvage unit manager Andrew Berry says plans are in place should the stern break free from the rest of the ship.

He says the tugs would look to tow it to shallow waters.

"There's three tugs out there at the moment, certainly they've pre-identified a number of sites that are inside that 50 metre depth contour that if the stern section was going to sink that they'd like to get it into that,'' he says.

There's a chance that even if the Rena does break in two, oil would not leak into the water.

Maritime New Zealand salvage unit manager Andrew Berry says before leaving the ship yesterday, crews sealed the fuel tank at the stern.

"There is always a risk that should the aft section of the ship detach, that you could get another release of oil, but because how that stern section of the ship would behave should the worst happen, we just don't know, so they've taken all the precautions they can,'' he says.

No pressure to donate

The Mediterranean Shipping Company Australasian managing director Kevin Clarke said the owners "genuinely feel the suffering" in the Bay of Plenty, but the pledge was not made out of any moral obligation.

Phil Abraham, general manager of MSC New Zealand, denied the company was pressured into donating.

"There's no guilt at all expressed by ourselves. We do feel for the people of Bay of Plenty. We felt a corporate responsibility to help."

But Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby felt the donation was not enough.

"It's a reflection of at least a degree of concern, but you know I get frustrated when you see members of our community on their hands and knees picking up the oil, and then these shipping lines have to be prodded to make a donation," he said.

"Hopefully, they do now understand the severity of the problem and will continue to make contributions - the salvors and Maritime New Zealand will leave and our communities will end up doing a lot of the restoration.

"I don't see why our ratepayers and community should have to fund any part of this - it needs to be totally funded by those who are responsible and accountable."

An invitation for the head of vessel owners Costamare Shipping to make a public apology in the Bay of Plenty was still to be taken up.

Costamare and its insurers The Swedish Club said yesterday that Costamare had cover which included pollution liabilities and its obligations would be "met in full".

But a spokesman could not confirm whether the cover would meet the total cost of the clean-up bill, which now stands at $4 million and is expected to run into tens of millions of dollars.

Commercial fishers barred from entering a huge exclusion zone around the Rena are also yet to learn what compensation will be offered.

PM's private talks with businesses

Mr Key held closed-door talks yesterday over what he called "a small and distinct" group of businesses, but later said the amount of support would depend on the outcome of the disaster.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was drafting a scheme with help from Tauranga's Chamber of Commerce. Officials also met affected tourism operators last night.

Meanwhile, officials were last night praying the cracked and grounded Rena would survive another night on Astrolabe Reef amid high winds and large swells expected to have reached up to 4m.

Salvors were due to return to the ship at first light this morning to continue the sluggish job of offloading its remaining oil after bad weather again halted operations yesterday.

Eighty-eight containers had been lost overboard - 30 still unaccounted for - and it was expected that number would have risen by this morning.

The bad weather also put a stop to planned beach clean-ups yesterday.