The Rena salvage operation is preparing for its next stage during winter.

Recovery of containers has been faster than expected in recent weeks, with all accessible
containers in the bow section removed, leaving 18 damaged or empty containers in the section that remains on Astrolabe reef.

More than 900 containers have been collected from the vessel of the 1368 on board when it ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef off Tauranga on October 5 last year.

Relatively calm weather recently calm has resulted in progress on the salvage operation.

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As a result, salvage vessel Smit Borneo has completed its contribution to the operation and is likely return to its home base in Singapore in the next few weeks, said owners of the Rena.

Container recovery company Braemar Howells is finalising preparations for last phase of underwater container recovery plan - the lifting of several containers from the seabed.

The company has been responsible for retrieving lost containers and removing any debris which came ashore.

In the next phase of the operation over winter, it will take on an expanded role inside the exclusion zone, overseeing the wreck's safety and security, monitoring its status, and minimising and clearing any debris that escapes from the vessel through adverse weather conditions.

The vessel owners and insurers are liaising with Maritime New Zealand as part of the planning process and discussions are continuing with salvors regarding the technical aspects of wreck removal.