Volunteer Cleanup Reactivated for New Rena Oil Spill

The stern section of the Rena, the container ship that ran aground on a reef off the northeastern shore of New Zealand, is almost submerged and is leaking oil. It contains an estimated 400 containers, Maritime New Zealand reported.

Authorities in New Zealand have reactivated the volunteer beach cleanup program in the area when oil leaking from the stranded container ship Rena is coming ashore Jan. 10, with Maritime New Zealand posting photos showing the detached stern section of the ship is almost completely submerged. The agency warned residents Jan. 8 that containers, timber, and milk powder spilled from the Rena, which is grounded on the Astrolabe Reef, were likely to wash up ashore after the ship finally broke into two pieces. Maritime New Zealand said a large number of containers and additional debris had spilled from the ship by the point.

The ship ran aground Oct. 5, 2011, and since then, volunteers and defense personnel have cleaned beaches and dozens of containers have been removed from the ship. Spilled oiled has killed hundreds of birds.

There is a three-nautical-mile exclusion zone around the ship, and it probably will be increased, said Bay of Plenty Regional Council water management group manager Eddie Grogan. "We will provide more information once we've assessed the situation, however we anticipate the exclusion zone will be increased," he said. "We're asking people to be conscious of the hazards and to be sensible and careful."

With more bad weather expected, vessels in the area were warned to navigate with extreme caution.

The bow section remains fixed on the reef. The latest oil spill is only a fraction of the size of the initial spill from the grounding in October, according to the agency, which said container recovery company Braemar Howells estimates 400 containers are in the stern section of the Rena. Crews on two tugs are trying to contain drifting containers and tow floating containers to a recovery barge.

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