Grounded cargo ship breaks up off the coast of New Zealand
Sunday 08 January 2012
A cargo ship grounded off the
New Zealand coast since October has split in two, spilling sea
containers and debris and sparking fears of a fresh oil spill, maritime
officials said today.
The wreck of the Greek-owned Rena was described as New Zealand's worst maritime environmental disaster even before the rear section of the ship, lashed by pounding seas, broke away overnight. The ship previously spilled heavy fuel oil that fouled pristine North Island beaches and killed up to 20,000 seabirds, and despite salvage efforts nearly 400 tons of oil remain onboard.
Maritime officials said the front section of the wreck remains stuck in its original position, but the stern section slipped at least 100 feet (30 meters) away from the bow and is "moving significantly," pounded by 19-foot (6-meter) swells.
The storm that split the vessel will continue for another three to four days, Maritime New Zealand spokesman Ross Henderson said.
Officials said up to 300 of the roughly 880 containers that had been on board were lost when the ship broke apart. Of those, about 30 percent had been fitted with monitoring devices and some 30 containers had already been located.
Oil has been seen leaking from the broken ship. Alex van Wijngaarden, on-scene commander for the national response team, said oil from the vessel could come ashore around midnight Sunday.
"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," he said. "While it is unknown at this stage exactly how much oil may be released, teams have been mobilized and will be ready to respond to anything that may come ashore."
Environment Minister Nick Smith told reporters that the "risks for the environment are a fraction of what they were in October," though the roughly 385 tons of oil still aboard the ship is about the same amount that leaked from the vessel soon after it ran aground. Salvage crews previously removed 1,100 tons of oil from the ship.
Most of the oil is in tanks in the stern section, which could end up sinking. Some of that oil could end up dissipating in the ocean rather than washing up on beaches.
The containers, meanwhile, spilled goods including timber, wool, bales of recycled plastic and bags of milk powder. The debris could begin washing ashore later Sunday.
Some containers have been sighted floating up to 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of the stricken ship, Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns said.
"They have been caught in a strong coastal current" fueled by the storm, he said.
The Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef 14 miles (22 kilometers) from Tauranga Harbor on North Island on Oct. 5.
Salvage crews have plucked 389 of the ship's 1,370 loaded cargo containers from its decks since it ran aground, while some 98 have been washed over board in the past three months.
One eyewitness, Warwick Roberts, said the rear section was sliding along the reef.
The "stern has reared up and center section is not visible. Large breaking waves observed on bow," he told the New Zealand Herald website.
A two-mile (three-kilometer) no-go zone is in force around the wreck.
Investigations by The Associated Press last month revealed that Australian authorities impounded the vessel, but released it the next day after Liberian maritime authorities intervened, essentially saying the ship was safe to sail and the problems could be fixed later. The Rena, like many ships, is registered in Liberia.
Some 10 weeks later, the Rena ran full-steam into a well-marked reef off the coast of New Zealand. It's not clear whether the previously identified problems played any role.
The captain and Rena's navigating officer face criminal charges of operating a ship in a dangerous or risky manner, polluting the environment and altering the ship's documents after the crash.
The Microsoft mogul told fans a few home truths during his Reddit AMA
First full-length look is finally here
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
Boris Johnson claims porn-obsessed Islamic jihadists are 'literally w*****s'
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Teenager brandishing fake gun taken down by police after demanding airtime on Netherlands' NOS TV station
Ball pool for adults opens in London
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a fast growing in...
£29000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV Mechanics & HGV mechani...
£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...
£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...