Rena's Chief Officers Plead Guilty, Sentencing May 25

The names of the master and second officer of the container ship that ran aground on New Zealand's Astrolabe Reef on Oct. 5, 2010, have been suppressed while their case is before the courts.

Two senior officers aboard the container ship Rena, which is still stranded on New Zealand's Astrolabe Reef as salvors continue to cut up and remove containers from her deck, pleaded guilty Feb. 29 to 10 of the 11 charges laid by Maritime New Zealand in connection with the Oct. 5, 2010, grounding. They were charged a week afterward with violating Section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act 1994 "for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk." The charge carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 or maximum imprisonment of 12 months, according to the agency.

Both the agency and the New Zealand Herald reported the names of the two who pleaded guilty, the Rena's master and second officer, have been suppressed while their case is before the courts.

More charges were laid on Nov. 2, alleging the two officers violated two sections of the Resource Management Act, which prohibits discharging "harmful substances" from ships or offshore installations and carries a maximum fine of $300,000 or two years' imprisonment and $10,000 for every day the violation continues; and on Dec. 21, alleging they willfully attempted "to pervert the course of justice" by altering the ship's documents after it ran aground. The master faces four charges of the latter type and the second officer three charges –- and each of these charges carries a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment.

The master pleaded guilty to all charges against him. The second officer pleaded guilty to the Maritime Transport Act and the three Dec. 21 charges but entered no plea as to the Resource Management Act charge.

As of Feb. 27, 561 containers had been removed from the ship, many of them lifted off by a helicopter. Another 71 containers from the ship had been recovered from the ocean or ashore as of that date, Maritime New Zealand reported.

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