22 Oct 2011

Crane vessel picking up lost containers from Rena

8:44 pm on 22 October 2011

A crane vessel is retrieving some of the containers lost from the cargo ship Rena, from the sea floor off Mt Manganui.

Maritime New Zealand says the Pancaldo, will move to different sites where containers have been identified as resting.

Eighty-eight containers were lost overboard, and as of Friday 29 were missing and only five had been recovered.

A team of extra salvors were airlifted on to the Rena on Saturday to speed up the transfer of oil to the barge Awanuia.

As of Saturday evening, 256 tonnes of the estimated 1700 tonnes of oil that was onboard the ship had been pumped on to a bunker barge.

The ship has been stranded off the coast of Tauranga since 5 October when it ran aground on Astrolabe Reef, spilling up to 350 tonnes of oil into the sea.

One salvage team is pumping oil from the No.5 port fuel tank, while another is setting up a new system to transfer oil from the Rena's settling tanks which are inside the engine room.

Another team of three is constructing level platforms to allow equipment to be brought onboard to increase power.

The fourth team consists of divers who are working in a mostly flooded corridor on the stricken ship's starboard side.

Maritime New Zealand's salvage unit manager Bruce Anderson says the divers have quite a bit of work to do before they get close to the submerged fuel tank.

A spokesperson for the company leading the salvage of the vessel Matthew Watson, says there have been two days and two nights of continuous pumping and conditions on Saturday are the calmest since the incident began.

He says Svitzer staff are working the generators as hard as possible, without wearing them out.

Warning to beachgoers

Maritime New Zealand says anyone going to the beach at Mt Maunganui during the long weekend should stay out of the water.

Several Bay of Plenty beaches have been closed because of the pollution caused by the oil and lost containers.

MNZ says surf lifesaving teams will not be on the beach during the holiday weekend, and people should not swim.

Frequent checks on shipping lanes

Port of Tauranga authorities have been carrying out twice daily helicopter flights to check the waters around the Rena for containers.

Eighty-eight containers have fallen off the ship since it ran aground.

Port chief executive Mark Cairns says daily sweeps of the shipping channel will continue, using sonar and a magnetometer.

He says work to salvage submerged containers began on Friday and efforts will get underway next week to remove containers from the ship itself.

Mr Cairns says the port is operating as normal and ships heading into port have been advised of new co-ordinates for a reduced exclusion zone around the Rena.