Oil slick 4km long stretching northeast of Rena; booms placed to protect beaches

An oil slick four kilometres long was this morning stretching northeast of the Rena. It is likely to come ashore east of Maketu this evening.

Booms being prepared to protect Maketu from oil slick. Photo: Maritime NZ.

Booms have been put in place to protect sensitive areas in Maketu, Little Waihi and Waitahanui.

News from Maritime NZ
National On Scene Commander Alex van Wijngaarden said a heavy metallic sheen had been observed coming from the wreck this morning. The sheen is about 4km long and between 10-60m wide. It is part of a larger, lighter sheen that is stretching about 10km from the wreck.

Captain van Wijngaarden said sheen was drifting down the eastern side of Mōtītī Island but it did not appear to be reaching the island. Current trajectory modelling predicted the oil was likely to reach Pukehina Beach, and east of there, overnight.

“We have had unconfirmed reports of a small amount of oil stranding at Pukehina. We have sent a shoreline clean-up assessment team down to follow up on those reports and we have response teams ready to clean any oil they may find,” Captain van Wijngaarden said. “We have about 60 oil spill responders in the field today, cleaning at the Mount and on Matakana Island. We also continue to get a significant amount of support from iwi volunteer groups, who are also doing a fantastic job.”

Wildlife teams were out between the Mount and Pukehina today checking for affected wildlife. Seven live little blue penguins and 31 dead birds of different species have been picked up this week. The live penguins are being stabilised at the Te Maunga oiled wildlife facility.

Yesterday’s clean-up on Waihi Beach

Container and debris recovery operations are continuing on water and on shore at Waihi Beach and Matakana Island. Braemar Howells teams are working in other areas of the Bay of Plenty where debris or containers have been reaching the shoreline.

Clean-up starts again at Waihi Beach. Photo: Maritime NZ.

News from Maritime NZ – January 11
Booms are being placed at Maketū and Little Waihi Beach today in anticipation of any fresh oil washing ashore from the wreck of Rena. Oil trajectory modelling shows fresh oil potentially reaching the coastline east of Maketū on Thursday evening. However, National On Scene Commander Alex van Wijngaarden said the amount of oil being released from Rena is much less than that spilled in October.

“The salvage teams have done an excellent job of removing the bulk of the oil from the ship. There are residual pockets of oil that they were unable to reach due to the extensive damage on the ship. However, we are talking tens of tonnes left on board – as opposed to the hundreds of tonnes we saw washing ashore in October.”

Captain van Wijngaarden said the National Response Team was ready to deal with whatever quantities came ashore this time.

“We are regularly monitoring the oil on the water with aerial observation flights. The most recent one confirmed a stretch of sheen with some dark patches in it spreading about 500m from Rena. A lighter sheen, with no dark oil spots, stretches around 10km from the wreck. What this means is the amounts that have been released are relatively minimal to date.”

Teams of up to 30 were cleaning oil at Matakana Island and the Mount, while rapid response teams remained on standby in case of reports from the public today. To date, observation flights and shoreline clean-up assessment teams had not recorded any significant amounts of fresh oil reaching shorelines.

Teams from the National Oiled Wildlife Response Team conducted night patrols looking for affected birds at Mount Maunganui and Mōtītī Island and found no oiled birds. More teams are checking beaches today, from the Mount to Pukehina. The Oiled Wildlife Centre at Te Maunga has been partially recommissioned ready to receive any oiled wildlife.

Volunteers are being provided with protective equipment and trained to take part in beach clean-ups at Waihi Beach (top and above) following yesterday’s community meeting. People who were registered with the volunteer programme before Christmas are also being contacted to see if they wish to take part in further clean-ups, in case large amounts of oil reaches the shore.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager David Billington said this morning’s observation flight showed that the two parts of Rena remain in position on the reef. The stern section has not changed since most of it slid off the reef yesterday morning – about 75 percent of the stern is underwater. The bow section is still firmly wedged on the reef. There is a small amount of debris still floating around the ship. So far today there are no new reports of containers being washed ashore.

Container recovery company Braemar Howells has 13 vessels working on two major on-water operations today. The first operation, assisted by aerial spotters, is targeting debris fields to recover material from the water north west of Astrolabe Reef and north of Mōtītī Island. The second operation is focusing on securing and recovering floating containers and large timber bundles in the Waihi Beach area.

On shore, around 150 people are working on clean-up operations for Braemar Howells, collecting debris from containers.

A helicopter is patrolling the coast checking for floating containers between Waihi and Matakana this morning.

Five containers and their contents have been removed by road from Waihi Beach and recovery teams are working to remove 10 more, in an area stretching from Bowentown to just north of Waihi Beach. Plans are in development to remove 11 containers from Matakana Island.

News from Maritime NZ – January 10
Work is continuing with the debris released when the two sections of the Rena separated on Saturday night. Fifty people are working on Waihi Beach today, made up of iwi, Allied Workforce and staff from mining company Newmont. Another 30 people are working from Papamoa to Kaituna Cut and a further 20 are on Matakana Island.

Debris retrieved from the water yesterday has already been brought ashore at the Port of Tauranga. Work is also planned to empty the containers which landed on Waihi Beach yesterday, so the empty containers can be removed.

Over 20 containers beached on Manakana Island overnight and planning is underway to deal with these.

Braemar Howells has activated 11 hubs, which are mini coordination centres, along 100km of the coast. An agreement between the company and iwi provides for their local labour force to be associated with debris clean-up efforts.

Earlier news from NZ Police
As shipping containers washed up on the shore, police and Maritime New Zealand yesterday closed public access to Waihi Beach.

Sergeant Dave Litton of Waihi Police said the lead organisation in the multi-agency response to recovering containers from the M.V. Rena remained Maritime New Zealand who had been advised of the beach closure and were managing the response.

“We have had four containers washed ashore and have several more a short distance off the coast that are likely to also come in as the day progresses. For that reason and because we don’t know the contents of the containers, we are urging members of the public to stay away from the beach.”

Mr Litton said Police had received calls about the occupants of a vehicle taking bags of what appeared to be milk powder before driving off.

“The expert advice we have received is for people not to approach items washed ashore for health reasons and we appeal to those people who have taken objects to return them to the beach where they can be managed by decontamination crews.”

News from Maritime NZ – January 9
Four containers and a considerable amount of debris from the wreck of the MV Rena have washed up on Waihi Beach this morning.

Another seven containers are known to be within a mile of the shore, and container recovery company Braemar Howells is using tugs to tow them offshore. Aerial observation flights suggest that up to 40 containers were in the water, all of them north of the harbour entrance.

Braemar Howells Operations Manager Claudene Sharp said the priority was to prevent as many of them as possible from beaching. As of this morning, 21 have been tagged with buoys and they will be corralled and collected as soon as conditions allow.

Teams are already on Waihi Beach to secure and start removing the debris, with another investigating unconfirmed reports of a container ashore just inside the Bowentown entrance. A further report of a container ashore at Papamoa Beach this morning was investigated and found to be false.

The public are urged to report all sightings of debris to 0800 333 771, but not to try to remove anything because of the risk of contamination or injury. Debris reported this morning includes timber, milk powder and plastic material.

Surf lifesavers are cautioning people against going into the water and security staff employed by Braemar Howells and police will restrict access to areas around containers and debris if necessary.

National On Scene Commander Alex van Wijngaarden urged people to use common sense. “The beaches are open, but there is inevitably going to be a lot of mess and disturbance for the next few days while this is cleaned up and we would like people to use common sense and stay well away from the debris – in some cases this will mean staying out of the water as well as away from material washed up on the beach.”

The three nautical mile exclusion zone remains in place around the Rena, along with a 1500 feet aerial exclusion zone. This is to ensure the safety of shipping and aircraft, and enable response operations to continue unhindered by civilian sea and air movements. Any changes to the exclusion zone will be decided by the Bay of Plenty Harbourmaster.

Trained oil spill response teams are prepared to respond to any reports of fresh oil on the beaches and two vessels are prepared for on-water oil recovery within the harbour if sea conditions allow, Mr Alex van Wijngaarden said. So far there is no indication of a significant release of oil from the Rena, although a sheen of oil is still visible off the vessel. Anyone seeing fresh oil on shore is asked to call 0800 OILSPILL (0800 645 774).

Meanwhile, wildlife teams brought in six little blue penguins overnight and this morning, but only three have them have proved to be oiled, and are now being rehydrated and rehabilitated, Oiled Wildlife Response Manager Kerri Morgan said.

Teams are patrolling beaches this morning and will respond to all reports of oiled wildlife. However, Ms Morgan said that many penguins that were reported as being oiled were found to be moulting juvenile birds, and were not affected by oil. Please report any sightings of oiled wildlife to 0800 333 771.

Salvors have not yet been able to land on the stern section of the Rena to assess its state, although this morning’s aerial observation showed no significant change in its position on the Astrolabe Reef. MNZ Salvage Advisor Jon Walker said that internal flooding meant that the stern section would not float if it came off the reef. The bow section of the vessel is still wedged firmly in its original position, but is suffering internal damage from wave action now that it is fully exposed to the sea.

Salvors are working with Braemar Howells to update the number of containers still on board.