Oil spill disaster threatens New Zealand

 

New Zealand braced for a new oil spill last night after a storm broke up a cargo ship that has caused the country's worst maritime environmental disaster.

The Greek-owned Rena, which has been wedged on a reef off North Island for three months, split in two yesterday, tipping hundreds of containers into the sea. Maritime officials said oil was leaking from the ship.

Thousands of seabirds were killed when the ship crashed into the Astrolabe Reef on 5 October, with more than 300 tons of heavy fuel oil released into the Bay of Plenty and fouling pristine beaches.

Nearly 1,000 tons of oil have been pumped off the Rena, but more than 300 tons remain on board.

Maritime New Zealand said both parts of the wreck are stuck on the reef, 12 miles off Tauranga, on North Island's east coast.

But the stern section had been forced at least 100 feet away from the bow and was "moving significantly", lashed by 19-foot swells.

Oil was set to reach the shore late last night, with oil-spill response teams on alert. "While reports at this stage indicate there has not been a significant release of oil, with the Rena in its current fragile state a further release is likely," said national on-scene commander, Alex van Wijngaarden.

About 300 of the ship's 1,370 containers – loaded with meat, timber, deer hides, recyclable plastics and milk powder – were lost when the Rena broke up, and officials said they could present a danger to shipping.

The regional council said it was considering extending the three-nautical mile exclusion zone now in place around the 46,484-ton, Liberian-registered Rena.

Despite the oil on board, Environment minister, Nick Smith, said risks to the environment were "a fraction of what they were in October", when a huge clean-up operation was necessary. Most of the remaining oil is in tanks in the stern section, which could end up sinking.

That would mean some oil dispersing in the ocean rather than washing up on beaches. Mr van Wijngaarden said "much less" oil was expected to reach shore this time.

The chief executive of the Port of Tauranga, Mark Cairns, said some containers had been spotted 20 miles from the ship, after being swept away.

The storm is forecast to last for up to four more days. Salvage crews have plucked some 400 containers from the Rena since it ran aground and 100 or so have washed overboard in the past three months.

"While the two sections [of the ship] remain on the reef, both are now open to the sea and vulnerable to more damage," Maritime New Zealand's salvage unit manager, David Billington, said yesterday. The Rena's captain and navigating officer, both Philippine nationals, have been charged with operating a ship in a dangerous manner, polluting the environment and altering the ship's documents after the crash.

Both of the men are presently being held on bail. They are both also being held at a secret location because of fears that presently exist for their safety.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions