Rena response (update 6)

10 October 2011: 9.00pm

This release includes the latest information available.

Public Health Warning:

  • Oil has now been found on beaches from Mount Maunganui to Girven Road and on the southern end of Matakana Island. We expected oil to wash up on the shore today and overnight, although we acknowledge that this doesn’t make it any less distressing for local people.
  • It is in individual clumps of about fist-sized patties about 5mm high and stranded on the tide line about every 700 to 800mm apart.
  • Please stay off the beaches and use your common sense.
  • Do not touch the oil or attempt to clean up the oil as it is toxic.
  • If people see oil coming ashore please call the spill number 0800 645 774.
  • A public health warning has been issued. No shellfish or fin fish should be eaten from waters with visible oil contamination.

Messages for the public:

  • Please stay away from the water.
  • Public health and local councils are erecting signs on the beaches warning people to stay away.
  • Do NOT touch anything with oil on it - it is toxic and should not be in contact with skin. 
  • Do NOT take shellfish to eat. Avoid touching or collecting shellfish in any affected areas or have a have petrol-like, smell.
  • If you accidently come into contact with the oil, wash with soap and water, baby oil or petroleum jelly.
  • Do not use solvents, gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel or similar products on your skin.
  • If you get the oil in your eyes, rinse with water for 15 minutes.
  • Breathing in the vapour can cause irritation in mouth, nose throat and lungs. Move out of the area as quickly as possible.

Environmental team:

  • We realise that people are concerned that there is not enough action happening on the beaches to clean up the oil. But the oil isn’t going anywhere. There are onshore winds and high tides coming which means that more oil will be washed up and the existing oil will be washed further up the beach. If we rush to clean all the oil off the beach now we will just be back there in a few hours to do it again, which isn’t the best use of our resources. It is more effective to wait until it accumulates and remove it all together.
  • From tomorrow (Tuesday 11 October) the beach clean up will begin at low tide which is the best time to clean
  • Initially 10 trained teams will carry out the beach clean ups and it will expand to 20 teams later.
  • Beach cleanup teams will increase in number as more oil accumulates on the beaches by trained personnel.
  • Sandy beaches are relatively easy to clean up.
  • The shoreline clean up assessment teams (SCAT) are our eyes and ears on the ground.
  • We have continual aerial observation and computer modelling indicating where the oil is likely to go.
  • We are collecting and monitoring samples of shellfish, sediment and water from numerous areas.
  • We have identified the most sensitive sites. These include the Maketū estuary and there are no reports of oil there yet.
  • We have attempted to deploy a boom across the estuary but strong currents and surges and currents have made this very difficult.
  • We are investigating other possible options, however, preventing oil from entering the estuary may be impossible.
  • We appreciate people’s concerns but we request people to leave the oil to us and we will deal with it.

Salvage:

  • The salvors have moved oil from one of the forward (port) tanks into a more secure tank at the back of the vessel.
  • The salvors are extracting volatile gasses from the tank so they can get an operator in to manually put the pumps into the tank. Because there is a platform in the way inside the tank we cannot lower the pump directly into the tank.
  • As soon as it is safe to go into the tank we will have people in there equipped with breathing apparatus.
  • With the help of the Air Force, more crew coming for the Awanuia were flown from Auckland to continue the oil retrieval operation.
  • About 36 salvors and crew are on board.
  • There are no obvious signs of deformation of the vessel.
  • The Awanuia attempted several time to connect but the weather conditions prevented this.

Wildlife:

  • Wehave had no more oiled wildlife at the wildlife centre other than the seven penguins and two cormorants which are now all swimming happily.
  • We have nine teams searching the beaches and four teams on Mōtītī but there are no signs of oiled wildlife.
  • We have had a report of one oiled dog.
  • Call 0800 333771 if you find any oiled wildlife. If you see fur seals keep your distance and call the wildlife phone line.
  • Do NOT handle any affected wildlife.

Dispersants:

  • The corexit being used has been widely tested and has very low toxicity.
  • It is 10 to 20 times less toxic than dishwashing liquid and the ingredients that make up the dispersant are in most shampoos.
  • The dispersant breaks the oil into small droplets, and any issue with toxicity relates to the spilt oil, not the dispersant.

Inspections of MV Rena

  • The Rena was visited at Bluff on 28 September 2011 by a Maritime New Zealand Safety Inspector. This was a “follow-up” visit to clear deficiencies issued to the ship by a Port State Control inspection undertaken in China on 5 July 2011.
  • There were 18 deficiencies issued against the ship in the Chinese inspection. Twelve of these deficiencies were “rectify before departure” which means they must be fixed before the ship leaves the port. The other six deficiencies were less serious and to be rectified within 14 days, which means they needed to be rectified before 19 July 2011.
  • The “chart” deficiency noted by Chinese inspectors referred to a correction to Chart 4123 – a China South Coast Chart – and is not relevant to the current situation. The Chinese PSCO (Port State Control Officer) did not return to the ship to clear the deficiencies before the ship departed, but the ship signalled that the deficiencies had been rectified.
  • A subsequent Port State Control inspection in Fremantle WA on 21 July 2011 raised additional deficiencies and the vessel was detained. (Seventeen deficiencies were raised at this time.) On 22 July 2011, a follow-up inspection at Fremantle cleared 15 deficiencies raised the previous day. A further follow-up inspection at Port Botany NSW on 22 September 2011 cleared a further deficiency issued at the Fremantle inspection.
  • None of the deficiencies raised by the Chinese inspection conducted on 5 July 2011 were removed from a database which records deficiencies. According to the master of Rena, they had been checked. An MNZ Maritime Safety Inspector attended the vessel to check why the deficiencies had not been signed off. The inspector did not conduct an inspection of the vessel.
  • One deficiency remained against the ship after the MNZ visit, with a three-month action date. This deficiency was being actioned, as the vessel was to have a survey/audit in Singapore. This deficiency related to how the vessel implemented the International Safety Management system which is an international process on ship operations and systems. This was not sufficient to warrant detention of the vessel.

Note for media: there will be a brief stand up opportunity at the ICC at 10am tomorrow (Tuesday) where a representative from the National On Scene Command team will give a brief overview of the day’s scheduled activities and take a few questions. The venue is the old Foodtown supermarket, cnr Cameron Rd and 14th Ave, behind the Caltex Station. Media are asked to gather in the signposted area under the eaves at the front of the ICC entrance. Please be on time.

For further information contact:
Maritime New Zealand Media Line
Phone 04 499 7318


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