News from Maritime NZ
More than 1000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil has now been pumped from the stricken container vessel Rena, leaving about 360 tonnes left to be removed from the starboard 5 tank.
Maritime New Zealand Salvage Unit Manager Kenny Crawford said while the exact amount of oil pumped off the Rena was still to be confirmed, 1000 tonnes was a conservative estimate and a “significant milestone” in the operation.
Salvors were also now in the final stages of blocking off the flooded access way to the manhole that will allow them pump the water out and lower pumps into the starboard 5 tank, but had hit a snag with weather and tidal conditions this afternoon causing some more movement on the ship. This made it unsafe for divers to continue working.
“Unfortunately, the high tide and heavy swells meant that the divers were unable to complete the work this afternoon. But they will resume as soon as it is safe for them to do so.”
Mr Crawford said emptying the starboard 5 tank was always going to be the most challenging part of the operation, and would be a 5-step process. “The first step involves the placement and sealing of the coffer dam, which the salvors hope to have finished as soon as conditions allow. Step two is then to begin pumping water from the newly sealed passageway above the tank, so salvors can then remove the manhole cover into the tank, which is step three. Step four will then involve lowering pumps, pipes and other necessary equipment into tank itself, before the fifth and final step of beginning to pump oil.” However, he said the safety of the salvors remained paramount.
“While this may sound straightforward, this is still a complex, challenging and dangerous task, that can be affected by any number of variables that may result in salvors having to suspend operations. This means it is incredibly difficult to put a timeframe on when the starboard 5 tank will be emptied. We remain at the mercy of the weather, though the forecast is looking reasonable for the next few days. But rest assured, the salvage team will be working as hard as they can, as long as conditions safely allow, to get as much oil as possible off the ship.”
With all oil now removed from the port 5 tank and as well the two settling tanks and single service tank, four out of five tanks containing heavy fuel oil on board were now empty.
Mr Crawford said while getting into the starboard 5 tank and removing the remaining 358 tonnes of HFO remained the salvage team’s highest priority, they were also taking the opportunity to remove lighter oils from other tanks in the ship that were easier to access. “There are still significant amounts of other oils on board, such as diesel, hydraulic and lube oil still contained within the ship, so work will continue on removing this oil as well.”
National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn said these pockets of lighter oil – probably hydraulic and lubricating oil – were currently staying together within a 6km radius of the Rena and not coming ashore.
News from Maritime NZ at 2.30
Salvors hope to begin pumping water from the space around the Rena’s starboard 5 fuel tank today, after installing the second part of a dam that will allow them to access to the tank’s manhole.
The second of two patches forming the dam has now been installed, with salvors now finalising the sealing of the patches. Once this is completed, water can be pumped from the space. In the meantime, oil has continued to be pumped from the vessel’s other tanks overnight.
National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn said aerial monitoring of oil sheen around the Rena and of the Bay of Plenty coastline was continuing, with shoreline clean up assessment teams this morning working around Matakana Island and other areas as required.
Mr Quinn said while there had been no fresh reports of oil overnight, small quantities of oil continued to leak from Rena – from the duct keel and/or pockets within the vessel, where it had previously been trapped.
“This is causing a light sheen in the immediate vicinity of Rena, but the north-east conditions mean that it could head ashore, with some landing along Papamoa, possibly today or tomorrow.”
Defence Force personnel will also today be checking up to 50 kilometres of coastline for oil deposits.
News from Maritime NZ – October 29
Small quantities of oil continue to leak from Rena – from the duct keel and/or pockets within the vessel, where it had previously been trapped.
“This is causing a light sheen in the immediate vicinity of Rena, but the north-east conditions mean that it could head ashore, with some landing along Papamoa, possibly as early as tomorrow,” said national on-scene commander Nick Quinn. Defence Force personnel will tomorrow be checking up to 50 kilometres of coastline for oil deposits.
Oil continues to be pumped from the Rena after pumping operations were disrupted for three hours this morning, when it was discovered that water was mixing with the oil.
Maritime New Zealand Salvage Unit Manager Kenny Crawford said a valve had been leaking water into the tank. “Once the problem was identified the leaking valve was sealed and pumping resumed.” The amount pumped in the past 24 hours is still being assessed, because of the inclusion of water for several hours early this morning. Three hours’ pumping was lost. As of yesterday afternoon, 882 tonnes had been removed.
The sea remains relatively calm, with swells of less than a metre. Swells are expected to increase over the next couple of days, but are not expected to disrupt pumping of oil.
Salvage crew are still working on a coffer dam to seal off and then drain an area that will give them access to the starboard tank, containing about 358 tonnes of oil, which is underwater. Mr Crawford said it was extremely challenging work, but they were making good progress. An initial wooden dam is in place and gaps in it are being sealed. Once that is completed, a metal casing will be welded over it.