Rena update (update 156)

11 January 2012, 10:30am

Booms are being placed at Maketū and Little Waihi Beach today in anticipation of any fresh oil washing ashore from the wreck of Rena, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.

Current oil trajectory modelling shows fresh oil potentially reaching the coastline east of Maketū on Thursday evening.

However, National On Scene Commander Alex van Wijngaarden said it was important people recognised the amount of oil being released from Rena is much less than that spilled in October.

“The salvage teams have done an excellent job of removing the bulk of the oil from the ship. There are residual pockets of oil that they were unable to reach due to the extensive damage on the ship. However, we are talking tens of tonnes left on board – as opposed to the hundreds of tonnes we saw washing ashore in October.”

Captain van Wijngaarden said the National Response Team was ready to deal with whatever quantities came ashore this time.

“We are regularly monitoring the oil on the water with aerial observation flights. The most recent one confirmed a stretch of sheen with some dark patches in it spreading about 500m from Rena. A lighter sheen, with no dark oil spots, stretches around 10km from the wreck.

“What this means is the amounts that have been released are relatively minimal to date.”

Teams of up to 30 were cleaning oil at Matakana Island and the Mount, while rapid response teams remained on standby in case of reports from the public today.

Captain van Wijngaarden said to date, observation flights and shoreline clean-up assessment teams had not recorded any significant amounts of fresh oil reaching shorelines.

Teams from the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team conducted night patrols looking for affected birds at Mount Maunganui and Mōtītī Island and found no oiled birds. More teams are checking beaches today, from the Mount to Pukehina.

The Oiled Wildlife Centre at Te Maunga has been partially recommissioned ready to receive any oiled wildlife.

Volunteers are being provided with protective equipment and trained to take part in beach clean-ups at Waihi Beach this morning following yesterday’s community meeting.

People who were registered with the volunteer programme before Christmas are also being contacted to see if they wish to take part in further clean-ups, in case large amounts of oil reaches the shore.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager David Billington said this morning’s observation flight showed that the two parts of Rena remain in position on the reef.

The stern section has not changed since most of it slid off the reef yesterday morning – about 75 percent of the stern is underwater. The bow section is still firmly wedged on the reef. There is a small amount of debris still floating around the ship.

So far today there are no new reports of containers being washed ashore.

Container recovery company Braemar Howells has 13 vessels working on two major on-water operations today. The first operation, assisted by aerial spotters, is targeting debris fields to recover material from the water north west of Astrolabe Reef and north of Mōtītī Island. The second operation is focusing on securing and recovering floating containers and large timber bundles in the Waihi Beach area.

On shore, around 150 people are working on clean-up operations for Braemar Howells, collecting debris from containers.

A helicopter is patrolling the coast checking for floating containers between Waihi and Matakana this morning.

Five containers and their contents have been removed by road from Waihi Beach and recovery teams are working to remove 10 more, in an area stretching from Bowentown to just north of Waihi Beach.

Plans are in development to remove 11 containers from Matakana Island.

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