The final 319 tons of heavy fuel oil was pumped from the Starboard No. 5 tank on November 13 completing the removal of fuel off the Rena. Salvors will continue to remove any residual oil found in other parts of the vessel. It is believed that some 60 tons of oil may be trapped in the vessel’s keel.
The crane barge Sea Tow 60 took up position at the stern of the Rena and has removed a total of 95 containers from the vessel. The containers can only be removed with good weather conditions. Large swells or high winds cause the greatest risk to operations and have slowed the recovery process. Some 220 transponders have been attached to containers that have either dangerous cargo or at risk of falling into the sea. There are over 1100 containers still on board the Rena.
Authorities have reported that 922 tons of waste has been removed from the area beaches. Crews have used water blasting and washing rocks by hand along the rocky shorelines. The wildlife facility is currently caring for 409 animals. Over 2000 dead birds have been collected.
The container vessel Rena has remained intact long enough to allow salvage crews to avoid an environmental disaster. The Rena was predicted not to survive several storms after going aground on October 5 on Astrolabe Reef. The vessel did suffer structural damage with several cracks along its hull, but has remained intact long enough to allow salvage crews to pump some 1000 tons of fuel off the vessel. This is a great accomplishment for the salvage company and their employees. However, the damage to the coastline has already been done. Over 350 tons of oil was spilled from the vessel fouling the coastline around Tauranga, New Zealand. Government and the private sector must be prepared for shipwrecks occurring anywhere in the world.
Latest reports state the Rena is predicted to breakup as conditions worsen. Weather forecasts have swells growing from 3 meters up to 5 meters. Salvage teams have also reported further buckling of the hull along the submerged starboard side just forward of the bridge.
Salvage teams are preparing for the worst. Tracking sensors are being attached to containers with additional tugs are ready to be deployed to recover any containers that fall into the sea. The tug Go Canopus is to stand by if the Rena breaks up. The Go Canopus would tow the stern to shallower water to allow futher oil removal.
Another Oil Spill?
Over 1000 tons of oil has been pumped off the Rena by the salvage team. However, this leaves about 360 tons to be removed from the submerged starboard No. 5 tank. Pumping operations stopped when heavy swells made it to dangerous to continue. Salvors were nearing completion of a cofferdam to access the the submerged tank. Reports state the salvage team sealed the tanks and air vents in case the Rena broke up. If the starboard tank maintains integrity, the risk should be minimal. However, if the tank ruptures, it could double the total oil spilled to 700 tons. Some oil sheen is expected as some oil trapped from duct keel is released. Rough seas are expected to dispurse some of the pollution.
Over 800 tons of oil has been removed from the Rena as the salvage team completed pumping out the port number five tank. The remaining 600 tons are located in other four other tanks. The starboard number 5 tank is submerged will be much more difficult task. The salvage team needs to reach an underwater manhole access hatch in pitch black conditions with everything disoriented due to the heavy list. The team is trying to dam off the section and pump out the water around it to gain access. The starboard number 5 tank has 350 tons of oil to be removed. In addition, there are three other tanks in the engine room holding a combined 250 tons of oil still to go. Salvors are also attempting to pump out oil from the settling tanks. The remaining amount of oil in the settling tanks is not known but estimates place it under 100 tons.
The heavy crane vessel Pancaldo has arrived on scene and has removed some containers from the sea floor. The Pancaldo will begin salvage operations and removal of containers off the deck of the Rena when oil removal has completed. In addition, the vessel Brandy Wine is also being used in recovery of containers. The Brandy Wine has already remove containers from Motiti Island.
Reports state over 808 tons of waste has been collected so far by over 6,700 people. The cleanup effort has been split between cleaning up oil and the pollution resulting from the contents of the containers. Reports state the cleanup process will continue as several beaches that get re-oiled and re-cleaned daily. Officials have ended the need for volunteers to register to help with cleanup efforts. They have requested that volunteers to just turn up. More than 1300 oiled birds have died with another 885 being treated at wildlife facilities. Officials have added six enclosures specialized for penguins. Currently, there are over 300 penguins being housed at Te Maunga.