RENA Update 15


13 October 2011: 7.00pm

MNZ National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn says the response from the community to the unfolding situation from the stranded vessel Rena has been tremendous. “We have enormous support from the local community who have turned up willing and ready to work,” Mr Quinn said.“This is hugely appreciated and demonstrates the passion the local community have for their area. We are working hard to minimise the impact of this spill on this region.”

There were 500 people on the beaches today cleaning up the oil and assessing the potential impacts on shorelines around the Bay of Plenty.“Cleaning up the oil remains our priority but we are now dealing with three types of pollution – the containers, the contents of the containers, and the oil. We have restricted beach access to allow this operation to be undertaken effectively.”

Mr Quinn said the oil spill response team was prepared for a long clean-up process.

“This will go on for some time, and the same beaches will get re-oiled and re-cleaned on a daily basis. This is where it gets exasperating but we have experience in this and will just continue working through the process.”

There have been offers to the oil spill response team of heavy equipment to assist the clean-up operation, however Mr Quinn said experience had proven this could push oil into the sand and cause further damage to the environment.

“We are considering all oil spill response options, but right now the basic shovel is top of the list, in terms of removing oil from the beach.”

Mr Quinn reminded members of the public to stay away from the beaches unless they had already registered as volunteers. This was to protect public safety, and also to allow clean-up crews to get on with the job at hand.

The heaviest concentration of oil coming onto the beach has been at Papamoa.

The effectiveness of the Corexit 9500 dispersant has been shown as insufficient to justify aerial application to the spilled oil. We have consequently ended the aerial application trials and will continue to assess all response options.

There are two skimmer barges working in the harbour to pick up flotsam and another two will be in operation tomorrow to collect oil.

Salvage

A salvage inspection team was winched aboard the Rena this morning to check the damage to the vessel and assess whether its power systems were still intact.

The priority was to make sure the vessel was safe to be boarded. The team has assessed the vessel as safe to operate from.

The hoses used to transfer the oil from ship to ship are reportedly largely undamaged and the pumps have no major damage. However, the vessels auxiliary power system is probably not operable.

The vessel is now on a list of about 22 degrees to starboard. The aft of the vessel remains free floating at high tide while the bow is pinned on the reef. There is a large spilt in the port and starboard hull.

There are helicopters, rigid inflatable boats, tugs and Navy ships all standing by to assist the salvage operation.

It is estimated that about 350 tonnes of oil has leaked from the Rena.

Containers

88 containers have been reported as fallen from the ship – 20 have come ashore.

One container of dangerous goods containing Alkylsuphonic liquid (UN2586), which is water soluble, has been lost from the ship. It is not considered a significant health risk. It may cause some localised effects to the seabed – we will be monitoring this.

Please note earlier reports today that the container held Ferrosilicon were incorrect. However, our information is that if the Ferrosilican on board the vessel comes into contact with water we would see significant quantities of gas released in a short period of time.

At this time, salvage company Svitzer is responsible for collecting the containers in the water. The New Zealand Police and the Fire Service are assisting in managing the containers that have reached the shoreline. A company which specialises in overboard container management will take over once plans have been approved.

Members of the public should not touch containers that reach the shore, or any of the goods that have come free from the containers. Members of the public should please report container sightings with exact location details, to 0800 OIL SPILL.

Wildlife

Mr Quinn said it was heart wrenching to see the state of some of the birds coming into the centre.

“The mortality rates are starting to increase and there are several hundred dead birds yet to be collected by the wildlife teams who are working methodically to deal with the oiled birds coming in,” Mr Quinn said.

The team had also been pre-emptively catching rare New Zealand dotterels, which would be resettled in a special area in the wildlife facility.

There are now about 70 birds, four seals and 13 dotterels in the centre.500 dead birds have been recovered.