Early in the morning of 5 October 2011, the cargo vessel Rena struck Astrolabe Reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga and grounded.
The 21-year-old 236 metre Liberian-flagged cargo vessel was en route from Napier to Tauranga and travelling at around 21 knots when it struck. Its bow section was wedged on the reef, and its stern section was afloat. Two of its cargo holds flooded and several breaches were identified in the hull. There were 25 crew on board Rena at time of grounding.
Rena was carrying 1,368 containers and 1,733 tonnes of heavy fuel oil (HFO) on board at the time of grounding. An oil leak was detected on the night of night 5 October and a salvor, Svitzer, was appointed by the vessels owners and insurers the next day.
The salvage team began working around the clock in extremely dangerous conditions to secure the vessel and make preparations for the complex task of pumping the HFO off.
The salvors began removing the estimated 1,350 tonnes of oil in various tanks on Rena on 9 October, but were hampered by bad weather, equipment breakdown and hazardous and changeable conditions.
A storm overnight on 11 October resulted in the loss of an estimated 350 tonnes of oil from Rena, some of it washing up at various points along the Bay of Plenty coastline. Continuing bad weather the following night saw 86 containers lost overboard. A further 5–10 tonnes of oil was lost from the vessel overnight on 22–23 October.
Oil spill response personnel and volunteers, including large numbers of locals, worked to clean oiled beaches and recover debris from the containers. Wildlife experts from the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team treated oiled birds, including little blue penguins and pied shags, and pre-emptively caught 60 rare New Zealand dotterel to prevent them becoming oiled. (These birds were later re-released back into cleaned environments in a staged released programme.)
Over 1,300 tonnes of HFO was eventually recovered from Rena, with all of the accessible oil removed by 15 November. Containers lost overboard during bad weather were intercepted and recovered, where possible, along with dispersed container contents that washed up. Container removal operations from Rena began once all of the oil had been removed, with the first container lifted off on 16 November 2011. By 26 December, a total of 341 containers had been removed.
On 8 January 2012, Rena separated into two pieces and an estimated 200–300 of the approximately 830 remaining containers were lost overboard. The condition of the vessel had been gradually deteriorating during the time it was grounded on the reef, with more accelerated deterioration during stormy weather.
On Tuesday 10 January the stern section of Rena began to change significantly, with about 75 percent underwater by 10am. The stern section completely sank in early April, with the front of the section in around 23 metres of water and the rear in around 65 metres.
Salvage is continuing and is being managed by Resolve Fire and Salvage. Container recovery is being managed by Braemar Howells, and beach monitoring is being carried out by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
The Rena’s insurers The Swedish Club have indicated they are exploring an option to leave part of the Rena on Astrolabe Reef. This would require an application under the Resource Management Act.
A two nautical mile exclusion zone for all vessels around the Rena site on Astrolabe Reef is still in effect. This is administered by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (BOPRC).
Rena Exclusion Zone still in effect - Wednesday, 6 March 2013 10:30 a.m [BOPRC Media release]
*Please note: some numbers are estimates and subject to change.
1,368 containers were on board Rena at time of grounding – 547 containers stored above deck, 821 containers below deck. 121 contained perishable foodstuffs, and 32 contained dangerous goods.
A total of 1,007 containers have been received ashore since container recovery began on November 16. This total includes those removed from Rena by salvors and those collected from the water and beaches by Braemar Howells container recovery teams.
Braemar Howells, a UK-based specialist company is working for the insurers on the recovery of containers and container wreckage/contents, assisted by local contractors. This work includes recovery at sea, removal from the shore, securing, transportation and decontamination, unloading, storage and processing of the contents as appropriate.
Once ashore, container cargo is visually assessed by Braemar representatives and cargo surveyors. Containers are then transferred to an on-shore processing facility at the existing waste transfer centre in Truman Lane. At this centre containers are washed and emptied and the cargo and containers are cleaned. Cargo is then processed in line with the hierarchy of waste management and reused, recycled or disposed of as appropriate. Containers are either scrapped or put back into service.
Over 1,300 tonnes of oil was recovered through fuel recovery operations on board Rena.
1,733 tonnes of heavy fuel oil (HFO) oil on board Rena when it grounded.
Around 350 tonnes of oil released from Rena fuel tanks between 5–11 October 2011.
A total of 409 birds were being cared for in the Te Maunga wildlife facility at the height of the response, including 345 little blue penguins, 60 New Zealand dotterel and 4 pied shags. There was a staged release of wildlife starting in late November. The facility was eventually wound down and then removed, and any remaining birds cared for at Massey University.
At the time of the grounding, there were 120 rare New Zealand dotterels in Bay of Plenty area and 1,700 in existence. Sixty were pre-emptively caught and cared for at the wildlife facility.
A total of 2,410 dead birds collected, of which 1,448 were oiled.
More Rena by the numbers (first ten weeks of the response)
Condensed Rena timeline (first eight weeks of the response)
Daily timeline summaries [PDF: 95Kb, 9 pages]
Ministerial briefings: 1 – 31 October 2011 [PDF: 1.86Mb, 56 pages]
Situation reports: 8 – 26 October 2011 [PDF: 263Kb, 72 pages]
Daily timeline summaries [PDF: 92Kb, 9 pages]
Ministerial briefings: 1 November 2011 [PDF: 83Kb, 2 pages]
Daily timeline summaries [PDF: 384Kb, 84 pages]
In response to requests from the media and other interested parties for information about the government’s response to the Rena grounding, the Ministry of Transport has released a document containing correspondence to and from the office of the Minister of Transport between 5 and 12 October 2011.
Rena correspondence [PDF: 4.5Mb, 76 pages]
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Rena Project page, which contains the latest information about the salvage of the wreck and containers.
Resolve is managing the removal of the wreck, Braemar Howells is managing container removal, beach clean-up and shoreline monitoring. Maritime New Zealand is maintaining oversight of these processes.
Media contact for owners, insurers, and salvors – Hugo Shanahan, +64 275 111 561