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Rena oil spill: Wednesday as it happened

Published: 9:05AM Wednesday October 12, 2011 Source: ONE News

Live updates of developments in the aftermath of the stranding of the container ship Rena on Astrolabe Reef about 12 nautical miles off Tauranga early on October 5.

Send your info, pics and video of the Rena to news@tvnz.co.nz

A summary of the day's events:

*There are two large cracks in the Rena, one on either side of the ship. Experts say they're fatigue cracks created by the movement of the rear of the ship, which is still floating, with the front pinned on the reef.

*Salvage experts expect the ship will break apart.

*Aerial footage shows containers floating in the water. Footage also show blue smoke from what appears to be a chemical reaction. Containers are continuing to fall from the vessel.

*Oil has reached beaches in the Tauranga harbour, and continues to wash ashore. Transport Minister Steven Joyce cautioned that the worst of the environmental impact is yet to be seen. A thick trail of oil is heading for shore.

* Prime Minister John Key says that the Goverment is committed to restoring the area to its previous condition. He confirmed that the insurance payout is capped, and that any costs beyond this would fall upon taxpayers. But there are no estimates as yet for the total cost of the clean up effort

*The ship's Filipino captain has been charged, and has had his passport confiscated. Joyce says he may face further charges next week.

*The second officer is also facing one charge, and will appear in the Tauranga District Court at 10am tomorrow.

*The public have been warned to stay away from beaches, and to avoid any contact with the oil. Those who live near beaches are advised to stay inside with doors and windows closed if there are fumes.

*Volunteers can call 0800 OIL SPILL. They will receive some basic training before participating in the clean up.

20:19pm: Maritime NZ says that there is substantial oil on the beaches, in the water and on the foreshore is expected to result in around 10,000 tonnes of sandy waste. There are 20 teams on the beaches, comprising about 250 people, cleaning up the oil.
Four vessels are in the harbour to deal with any oil that may enter the area, and Navy and Air Force helicopters are undertaking surveillance flights to monitor the movement of oil at sea.
Maritime NZ say there will be a drop of Personal Protective Equipment to iwi groups to allow monitoring of the foreshore in their areas. This has been arranged through the iwi liaison team.

20:09pm: Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) have released a statement saying they are not responsible for the Rena incident. 
"MSC are receiving a number of media enquiries about the extremely unfortunate incident involving the grounding of Rena in regards to the belief that MSC is responsible for the vessel and/or involved in efforts to bring the situation under control.
"MSC chartered MV Rena from Costamare Inc to carry some of its cargo. It is a common practice for shipping companies to hire vessels from other firms for this purpose. However, whilst the company is watching events off New Zealand with great concern and co-operating fully with the authorities, MSC is neither the owner of the vessel nor responsible for its navigation.
"The small minority of news reports that have described Mediterranean Shipping S.A.(MSC) as the owners of the Rena are misleading and inaccurate."

19:54pm: The second officer who was in charge of the navigational watch of the vessel Rena when it hit the reef is facing one charge, laid by Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).
The charge is for "for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk", laid under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act (MTA) 1994.
He will appear in the Tauranga District Court at 10am tomorrow.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of $10,000, or a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months.

19:30pm: Maritime New Zealand say that with the ongoing concern that the stern of the vessel may break away, salvage experts have three tugs mobilised either to hold the stern on the reef while further effort is made to remove the oil, or to tow the stern to shallow water where they will remove the oil. Naval architects are working on possible scenarios. A number of containers have now come off the vessel. Those remaining continue to move, making it extremely dangerous for salvage crews to work on board. Six vessels have been mobilised to intercept the drifting debris in the water.

4:54pm: Greenpeace say they're welcoming Labour leader Phil Goff's statement that Rena will affect public views on oil exploration.
Speaking this morning, Goff said:"I think the opposition [to deep sea oil drilling] will grow if we can't cope with one ship that grounds offshore only a matter of kilometres from a major port, and it takes us so long to respond to that, what chance would we have of a failed oil well, that was pouring, you know, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of oil into the sea?".
Greenpeace NZ Climate Campaigner Steve Abel says that people are now looking at the Government's proposals for deep sea oil drilling with fresh eyes.
"They can see the obvious - that if we can't deal with a leak of thousands of litres in 100 metres of water just offshore how could we possibly hope to deal with a leak of millions of litres at depths of thousands of metres.
"The cost to our economy and livelihoods could amount to billions if a major oil spill struck our precious coastal waters and it's simply not worth the risk," Abel said.

4:16pm: John Key is fielding questions. He says that whoever is responsible must be held to account, as this is likely New Zealand's worst ever maritime disaster. He says that this was not an 'accident waiting to happen', but a ship running at full speed into a well-documented reef.
Key says that any cost beyond the insurance cap for the clean up would fall to the tax payers. He says that there are currently no estimates on the cost for restoring the area.

4:09pm: Transport Minister Steven Joyce says that further charges may be laid against the captain of the ship when appears in court next week.
Work is being done to coordinate the volunteer programme he says, and volunteers will receive training. The number to contact is 0800 OIL SPILL. Joyce says that the worst of the environmental impact has not yet been seen, and the reality is that more significant oil will be seen on the beaches in the coming days.  

4:06pm: A Tauranga medical officer is talking about the potential health effects of the oil. They're advising public to stay away from beaches, and avoid any contact. Most medical reactions would be rashes from contact, which would be minor, but could be worse if it gets into the eyes. If contact with oil, they advise washing with soap; if it gets into the eyes, rinse with water for 15 minutes. The effects on humans are likely to be minor he says, and the effect on wildlife will be much worse.
He says that fumes in areas around the beaches means that people should remove themselves from the area if possible, or keep doors and windows closed. These fumes are likely to quickly disperse. There have been no notifications of any serious health problems. People are also advised not to swim or collect shellfish in the marked areas. 

4:00pm: Around 250 people have been cleaning up beaches today. There are several weeks of this work - it is described as a "marathon not a sprint". The rough weather is helping the natural dispersing of the oil.

3:56pm: Latest over-flights today shows that the crack is getting worse.

3:55pm: Containers are continuing to fall off the ship says a Maritime NZ expert. Deformation of the vessel is apparent he says. A captain who was on the ship last night says the fault in the vessel is evident. The forehead of the vessel has run aground, and is pinned there. The rear of the ship is still floating. This creates stress, and the fault is a fatigue area. He says that a similar fault is evident on the other side of the vessel, which was opening and shutting in the heavy swells this morning. The rear part of the vessel is separating he says.  

3:50pm: Speaking at the press conference Prime Minister John Key says that there is obvious structural damage to the ship. There are significant amounts of oil on Motiti Island and on the beaches at Tauranga.
He says they're aware of the frustration of the locals, which is shared by officials, says those responsible will be held to account, but that is for another day.
Key says the Government is totally committed to the clean up, and will do whatever it takes to restore the area. 

3:30pm: New aerial footage from Maritime NZ shows again the large crack in the middle of the ship.Water is seen sloshing out of the crack. The footage also shows a large number of containers floating in the water. There are also patches of debris, presumably from containers that have broken apart. Some of the containers stacks that have fallen over on the ships have crushed other containers and there are patches of debris floating near the ship.
Speaking this morning, Dr Simon Boxall from the University of Southampton warned of the dangers that floating containers present.
"The main concern now is securing the containers on the ship. A couple of years ago the container ship Napoli ran aground off Devon and Dorset in England and lost a significant number of containers. These are potentially more worrying now than the fuel oil leaking from the ship. "Once they break away from the ship they present a hazard to shipping - often floating just below the surface and difficult to see and track until they finally fill with water and sink.
"Containers can remain afloat for weeks at a time. There should also be concern as to the contents of the containers. This could range from household good to chemicals and in the case of Napoli there were several tonnes of herbicides amongst other materials. The emergency will remain until the vessel is finally towed to safe haven."

3:00pm: View raw aerial footage here of the huge crack in the midsection of the Rena, and of containers in the water, one with what appears to be smoke coming off a chemical reaction.

2:46pm: Commenting on the spill, Dr Norm Duke from James Cook University in Queensland, says that oil can persist in tidal sediments for 20-30 years.
"There needs to be great care taken in mitigating the impacts of large oils on coastal ecosystems - and in selecting the chemicals and methods applied.
"Petroleum oil will naturally break down - but this takes time and oxygenation. So, the longer the oil remains floating at sea - the safer it becomes. And, the rougher the weather - the better also."
"Studies clearly show that oil can persist in tidal sediments for 20-30 years. And, the effect of this persistence is longer term impacts on biota growth - and its genetic makeup. For the latter, we know for instance, that there are mangrove plants can have increased genetic mutations with increased levels of oil in sediments." 

2:07pm: Aerial footage shows a number of containers floating in the water. One looks to have split open with blue smoke coming off what appears to be a chemical reaction.
Footage of the ship shows a large crack in its midsection, running from the top to below the water. The ship is listing and the back stack of containers are leaning as shown in earlier photos.

1:57pm: Forest & Bird says that the unfolding oil spill disaster is a stark warning about the potential catastrophe that could result from deep sea oil drilling in our waters
"The Rena disaster raises serious questions about our preparedness for an oil spill anywhere in our waters," says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.
He says the government needs to rethink its plans to expand offshore oil and gas drilling. 
"Clearly we would not have the resources to cope with a major oil spill involving an oil tanker running aground or as a result of oil drilling accident offshore."

1:39pm: ONE News reporter Donna Marie Lever reports that oil has entered Tauranga Harbour. Linda Royal contacted ONE News saying that oil has reached the inner-harbour beach at Matua. She says locals can volunteer to help with the clean up, with further details at www.matua.org.nz .  

12.25pm: It's estimated more than 300 tonnes of oil has already spilled from the damaged ship, causing a mess on beaches along the Bay of Plenty coastline. ONE News reporter Donna Marie Lever at Papamoa south of Tauranga reports there is now an overwhelming stench of oil. Oil on the beach now stretches as far as the eye can see, she tells TV ONE's Midday news. She says the oil appears to have been airborne from the wind, blown up onto the sand dunes and the road, causing health concerns. People are being warned to stay away form the beach but are not heeding those warnings and are coming down to the beach in their droves, Lever reports.

12.03pm:
Soldiers from the Defence Force have begun beach cleaning work at Papamoa. The group of 80 soldiers, working in teams of 10  first had training in how to safely handle the oil washing up on the beach. They are operating from Harrisons Carpark, 2.5 km north of the Papamoa Surf Club and it's expected that by this afternoon there will be more than 150 soldiers working on the beaches.

11.24am:
A Tauranga vet warns dogs may die if they are taken onto oiled beaches. Bayfair Vets surgeon Dr Steve Alderson says they've had three dogs brought in covered in oil. He says one dog had a rash on its paws from being on a beach and the other two had to be washed in canola oil and dishwashing liquid. Alderson says if a dog eats oil it may effect its kidneys, and cause ulceration and inflammation in the stomach and digestive tract. He says the oil on the beach is much worse today so people shouldn't even take their dogs to the beach car parks.

10.49am:
The skipper of the Rena is remanded on bail without plea until October 19 when he appears in the Tauranga District Court charged under the Maritime Act with operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk. He is granted interim suppression of his name and image. It was his birthday the day the ship grounded on the reef.

10.35am: Maritime NZ tells a media briefing 30 containers have fallen off the Rena, not 70 as it earlier reported. Maritime NZ says it's thought they are empty containers. It says there are no signs of any new oil leaking. It is issuing masks at the beach and the public health risk remains high. Maritime NZ is hoping to send a helicopter up today, but says this is weather dependent. There are four metre swells and they can't guarantee the ship won't break up. The superstructure is showing signs of stress. Maritime NZ says it will not be putting salvors back on board until it is convinced Rena has stopped moving and at present there is significant movement.   MNZ has reports that a number of the containers have washed up on the shores of Motiti Island and a container recovery plan is now in operation, with vessels trying to corral the containers.

The ship is listing 18 to 19 degrees to starboard and the bow still appears to be wedged on the reef, MNZ says.

A ONE News reporter says oil is being blown over the sand dunes at Papamoa Beach and onto the road.

10.28am: Bay of Plenty residents have been reduced to tears as they watch oil seep onto the coastline. Tauranga retailers are calling the Rena grounding the final nail in the coffin after the recession. Fishing and hunting retailer Bruce Weston says they're just coming into the start of the busy season and sunken containers and oil on the beaches is the worst outcome possible for local retailers. He says it's going to have a huge impact on charter boat and fishing companies.

10.11am:
Image released of containers falling off the Rena. See it here .

9.59am: Prime Minister John Key announces he will visit Maketu Estuary south of Tauranga at 2pm and hold a media briefing in Tauranga at 3.30pm.

9.52am:
 Bay of Plenty District Health Board says no people have been brought to Tauranga Hospital with effects from exposure to oil from the Rena.

9.42am: Labour Leader, Phil Goff will be in Tauranga today to talk with officials, locals and community groups about the effects of the Rena oil spill. He will receive briefings from Maritime NZ and meet with local mayors, beach clean-up volunteers, iwi leaders and Maritime NZ union members.

9.36am: Tug boats are tracking the movements of floating containers that have fallen off the Rena. Transport Minister Steven Joyce says around half of the 30 lost containers have sunk, some will wash ashore and many are being pushed by stormy seas into shipping lanes. He's confident everything possible was done to minimise the damage. Joyce says the salvage crews have been working around the clock on board the ship in horrendous conditions.

The containers which have fallen off the Rena are believed to be mostly empty. Joyce says there are no hazardous chemical containers among them.

Joyce also says the government has no intention of picking up the tab for the Rena disaster. Maritime legislation says a ship's owner and insurer will be culpable for the costs involved in a salvage and clean-up operation.

9.24am: Maritime New Zealand, police and other agencies are asking members of the public to call 0800 OIL SPILL to notify authorities of the location of any containers which may wash ashore from the Rena. Police say even if the containers come ashore, they remain the property of the original owners or insurers. The containers may contain hazardous material and need to be dealt with carefully, police said.

Situation at 9.05am:  A spokesman for Environment Minister Nick Smith confirmed to ONE News about 7.30am that the skipper of the Rena has been charged under section 65 of the the Maritime Act. He is to appear in Tauranga District Court today . Section 65 concerns "Dangerous activity involving ships or maritime products."

At least 30 containers have fallen off the back of the vessel in strong winds and rough seas. The More are likely to follow, Ross Henderson from Maritime New Zealand told TV ONE's Breakfast. "They are semi-submerged so they are a real hazard for mariners," he said.

Environment Minister Nick Smith told TV ONE's Breakfast more charges are likely to follow. "There is no way that vessel, confidently being navigated, should have hit that reef and allowed this environmental disaster to unfold," Smith said.

Joanna Mossop, a law of the sea expert from Victoria University, told Breakfast Section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act charges a person who causes or permits an act that creates danger to persons or property. It has a penalty of $10,000 or 12 months in prison, Breakfast reported.

Do you have cargo on the Rena? Contact ONE News - news@tvnz.co.nz .

 

 

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