New Zealand Oil Spill: Oil To Be Pumped From Stricken Ship Rena (14 PHOTOS)
WELLINGTON, Oct 18 — Rough weather today forced salavage teams to halt pumping oil from a stricken container ship off the New Zealand coast in what has turned into the country’s worst environmental disaster in decades.
The Liberian-flagged Rena has been stuck for 13 days on a reef 22km off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. It has already spilled about 350 tonnes of thick, toxic fuel and some of its hundreds of containers into the sea.
Winds gusting up to 65kph and sea swells cresting as high as four metres forced the evacuation of teams from the 236-metre ship.
“The forecast seems to suggest that the winds will kick around to the west which should make things slightly calmer, so fingers crossed they should be back on the job in the near future,” Matthew Watson a spokesman for Svitzer Salvage said on Radio NZ.
So far around 90 tonnes of the estimated 1,300 tonnes of the oil on board have been pumped on to a barge.
Authorities have been concerned that bad weather could possibly send the stern section, which contains more than 1,000 tonnes of oil, tumbling into 60m of water.
“The ship is stable and remains in the same condition as it was yesterday — with cracks down each side but is still together in one piece,” said Andrew Berry of Maritime NZ, the government agency which supervises the shipping industry.
It said a small amount of oil escaped from the ship overnight during the rougher weather, but winds were blowing it away from the shore and dispersing it.
Beaches, fouled with dinner-tray sized lumps of oil, have been largely cleaned up after thousands of volunteers joined soldiers and specialists.
Oil has washed up along about 60km of the coast, which is popular with surfers and fishermen. Nearly 1,300 birds have died in the spill, which is seen as New Zealand’s worst environmental disaster in decades.
The ship’s captain and second officer, both from the Philippines, are due to reappear in court tomorrow on charges of operating the 47,320 tonne ship in a dangerous manner. — Reuters