Ship still stuck on reef but no fuel oil leak

10:00 pm on 5 October 2011

Maritime New Zealand says steps have been taken to make sure heavy fuel oil on board a container ship stuck on a reef off Tauranga Harbour is safe.

The Rena, a 21-year-old vessel weighing 47,000 tonnes, struck the Astrolabe Reef about 12 nautical miles off the coast while heading towards Tauranga from Napier at about 2.20 on Wednesday morning.

It is on a 10-degree list with two of its cargo holds flooded but is stable in the reef and its fuel tanks are intact. The ship is carrying 1700 tonnes of fuel oil.

A light sheen of hydraulic oil that appeared on the water earlier has since dispersed naturally; it came from the engine.

Maritime New Zealand, which has sent an incident response team to the scene, says the Rena's captain is discussing with salvage experts how best to move the ship off the reef.

The agency's head of marine pollution response service, Andrew Berry, says some fuel oil has been moved, though the ship is continuing to take seawater into a water ballast tank from a crack in the hull.

All 25 members of the ship's crew have remained on board and all are safe and well.

Oil response team on stand-by

Incident controller Renny van der Velde says Maritime New Zealand's national oil response team is on stand-by if the situation deteriorates. He says the weather over the next few days looks to be in their favour.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council has declared a one-kilometre exclusion zone around the vessel.

The Tauranga harbourmaster says there have been reports of sight-seeing vessels, which pose safety issues and disrupt response efforts.

The maximum penalty for breaching the exclusion zone is $20,000.

'Familiar' six-week voyage

Michael Hodgins of the Mediterranean Shipping Company, which chartered the Rena, says it's carrying timber, milk powder, meat and fish.

He says the crew would have been familiar with the route it was taking, which starts in Singapore and includes ports in Australia as well as New Zealand before heading back to Sydney.

Mr Hodgins says the voyage usually takes about six weeks.