New Zealand Prime Minister John Key questions why an oil container ship ran into a reef off one of the country’s coastlines.
Effort is under way to remove nearly 2,000 tonnes of oil from the Liberian-flagged Rena which created a 5km (3 mile) slick which is currently stranded 12 nautical miles off the coast.
Weather forecasts threaten to break the ship up with heavy swells and gale-force winds predicted on Monday. Officials said that if the ship breaks up, 1,700 tonnes of oil could be released into an area which is home to whales, dolphins, seals, penguins and many other birds. 20-30 tonnes of oil have already spilled into one of the country’s top tourist attractions since the ship ran aground on Wednesday.
Two inquiries into the reason behind the ship’s collision with the Astrolabe Reef were under way according to Key. “People know about the reef, and for it to plough into it for no particular reason, at night, in calm waters, tells you something terrible has gone wrong and we need to understand why,” said Key.
Four naval vessels and two barges are removing oil that has spilled into the sea in the area to try to contain the spill.
“Once you increase the swell, the upsurge, the lift on the aft end of the ship will increase, and the chances of her separating start to rise,” explained Marine Risk Assessor John Riding.
“Minimising any impact to New Zealand’s coastline is the absolute priority. The current primary focus of the salvage operations is the safe transfer of the vessel’s fuel oil from her tanks,” the MV Rena’s owners, Greece-based Costamare Inc said in a statement.
The next 48 hours will determine whether the incident will become a serious environmental disaster or will be successfully contained.
- Oil to be pumped from stricken ship in New Zealand (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- New Zealand oil spill: grounded ship threatens environmental disaster (guardian.co.uk)
- ‘Serious questions’ over NZ spill (bbc.co.uk)
- Stranded ship spills tonnes of oil off New Zealand (cbc.ca)
- More on: container ship Rena strikes New Zealand’s Astrolabe Reef (uwtreasures.wordpress.com)