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Rena update (update 19)

15 October 2011: 7.00am

An army of volunteers will join the oil spill response team today to continue cleaning oil washed up on beaches following the grounding of the cargo vessel Rena on Astrolabe Reef last week.

Please note: the press release this morning said the oil needed to be heated before it could be taken off the vessel – this is incorrect. The fuel will not be heated, and an Archimedes screw pump will be inserted into the tank to extract the thick oil.

Also note: the release also contained incorrect information about boat ramps – the Sulphur Point and Pilot Bay boat ramps are closed. A decontamination site for private vessels will be established later today. Apologies for any confusion we have caused.

MNZ National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn said the goal for the day was to continue the momentum that has been built up over the last days.

“We have made really good progress, we are beginning to achieve our objectives and we need to keep it up.”

Rena has remained stable overnight and the salvage team’s assessment is that the vessel’s stern is currently settled on the reef.

There are no reports of fresh oil leaking overnight, but an observation flight will go up at first light to assess this.

The salvage teams have now attached four platforms to act as a flat surface to undertake fuel recovery from. This morning they will begin lifting heavy fuel recovery machinery on to the platforms.

Mr Quinn said this would be a long challenging process.

“The teams are working in very difficult and potentially hazardous conditions. The first step is to get all the gear in place and prepare for discharging the oil to the tanker Awanuia.”

The oil in the holds is the consistency of marmite, so an Archimedes screw pump will be inserted into the tank to extract the thick oil.

Mr Quinn said beach access would continue to be restricted to help contain the spread of the oil. Four boat ramps had been closed until further notice, comprising Sulphur Point, Pilot Bay, Whareroa and Fergusson Park.

“There has been some oiling of small private vessels,” Mr Quinn said.

“A boat cleaning site, or decontamination site, will be established to assist owners to clean oil off boats. The public is urged to remain clear of oily areas on the beach and in the sea.”

Clean-up operations

  • A total of 376 tonnes of waste has now been collected by two companies working through a consented waste management plan.
  • An observation flight is going out at first light today to assess the spread and trajectory of the oil.
    Potentially toxic waste from the containers is also being disposed of through the consented waste management process.
  • A preliminary assessment of the coastline from Opotiki to East Cape has been undertaken to plan for projected oil reaching beaches there. Volunteer training and equipment deployment in the eastern region is also taking place.
  • Beach access is restricted from Mt Maunganui to Maketu, including Maketu Estuary. This restriction will remain in place all weekend and be reassessed on Monday.
  • Tauranga City Council has closed the following boat ramps to contain the spread of oil:
    • Sulphur Point
    • Pilot Bay.
  • A boat cleaning site, or decontamination site for private vessels will be set up later today. Location details will be provided once they are confirmed.

Salvage

  • The vessel has remained stable overnight and salvage work has resumed this morning.
  • The salvage team has attached four platforms to the port side of the vessel. The platforms will provide a flat surface for fuel pumping operations from the port tanks.
  • The oil is now cold, and dense and like marmite in consistency. The salvage crews have revised their plans to remove the oil as the vessel no longer has power.
  • It is believed there are still 1,346 tonnes of oil on board the vessel – 770 tonnes in the port 5 tank, 356 tonnes in the starboard 5 tank and 220 tonnes in the settling tanks. The vessel had 1,673 tonnes to begin with.

Containers

  • The salvage company, Svitzer is responsible for collecting the containers in the water.
  • Members of the public who find containers on the beach should call 0800 OIL SPILL, unless the containers are tagged to show that they have already been identified.
  • It is important not to touch the containers or consume any of the goods that have come free from the containers. These might be contaminated and they still belong to the owners.

Volunteers

  • More than 4200 people have registered to volunteer, many through the website www.boprc.govt.nz/oilspillvolunteers. People can also register to volunteer at the Omanu and Mount Maunganui surf clubs.
  • The training and equipping of these volunteers is going well and there will be around 1,000 volunteers on the ground today, working from seven locations.
  • Today there are two supervisor training sessions planned in Ohope (Ohope Surf Club at 9am) and Matata (11am at Rangitihi Marae)
  • There are five clean-up sessions planned for today:
    • Mount Maunganui (12pm convening at Pilot Bay Boat Ramp)
    • Papamoa (12pm convening at Papamoa Surf Club)
    • Papamoa East (12pm convening at Taylor Road end of Taylor Reserve)
    • Maketu (12pm at Whakaue Marae)
    • Pukehina (12pm at the Pukehina Surf Club).

Wildlife

  • There are a total of 110 oiled birds at the wildlife facility being cared for.
  • There are now 25 rare dotterels in captivity at the centre – they have been caught to protect them from the oil.
  • There are only 100 dotterels known to be in the Bay of Plenty region – the wildlife team is aiming to capture at least 60 of these, to ensure the population is protected.
  • There are only about 1,500 dotterels in existence. A special aviary is being built at the wildlife facility to cater to the needs of these rare birds.
  • The total number of dead birds has now reached 1,000.
  • Volunteers who want to assist the wildlife response should contact the wildlife team on 0800 333 771.

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


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