Volunteers Cleaning NZ Beaches

With the MV Rena now expected to break apart, six vessels are trying to corral floating containers from the ship. Salvage firm Svitzer has winched workers aboard who hope to resume removing oil from its fuel tanks.

Workers have been winched aboard the stranded ship MV Rena and apparently will try to pump some of the oil from its stern fuel tanks before it breaks in two. The container ship ran aground on Astrolabe Reef, about 12 nautical miles off the northeastern coast of the country, at 2:20 a.m. Oct. 5, and at least 330 tons of oil have leaked. Oil and about 20 containers lost from the ship are washing up on the beaches.

Maritime New Zealand said 500 volunteers arrived Oct. 13 to help with beach cleanup. The agency issued a navigational warning Oct. 11 telling mariners containers from the listing ship could pose a hazard to passing vessels; hazardous materials are inside several containers. Subsequently, a large crack developed in the side of the ship and 88 containers fell into the sea.

"Our experience means we have been preparing for a worst case scenario right from the start," said the agency's National on Scene Commander, Nick Quinn. "We already have hundreds of well-trained responders from a number of organizations across land, sea, and air operations and have access to more if we need them. Our priority is the here and now, and cleaning up the oil. However, this is not a quick fix, so we are here for the long haul. Until now we have had a light oiling of beaches –- this will significantly increase as more oil washes ashore over the coming days.

"We are continuing our plans for getting people onto the beach for the massive cleanup task."

Both the ship's master and the second officer, who was in charge of the navigational watch of the Rena when it struck the reef, have been charged by Maritime New Zealand under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act (MTA) 1994 "for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk." The master appeared in court Oct. 12 and was released on bail. The charge against them carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 or a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months.

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