Oil from stricken ship fouls New Zealand beach

Oil from a cargo stuck on a reef started to wash up at New Zealand’s popular Mount Maunganui beach on Oct. 10. The Liberia-flagged MV Rena struck the Astrolabe Reef about 14 miles off Tauranga Harbour early Oct. 5. Teams from the Maritime New Zealand agency are racing to pump oil from the leaking ship, ahead of forecast gale-force winds and swells. Some 30 tons of oil have already leaked, with fears that 1,700 tons could be released. Prime Minister John Key is demanding answers, telling reporters in Tauranga that the Rena had “ploughed into” the reef at 17 knots in calm conditions “for no particular reason,” despite being a “major ship” owned by a “significant international shipping company.” The reef is in the wildlife-rich Bay of Plenty, and at least eight oil-fouled seabirds have been rescued from the slick. (AP, AlJazeera, Dominion Post, Wellington, Fairfax Media, New Zealand, Oct. 10; BBC News, Oct. 9)

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  1. New Zealand: Rena captain arrested, 350 tons leaked
    New Zealand authorities arrested the captain of the MV Rena Oct. 10 under the Maritime Act. “There is no way that vessel, competently being navigated, should have hit that reef and allowed this environmental disaster to unfold,” said Environment Minister Nick Smith, calling it the worst such disaster in the nation’s history. The stricken vessel has now likely spilled as much as 350 tons of oil, which is washing up on local beaches. Some 70 of the ship’s 1,368 containers are also now lost in the water, and many contain hazardous substances such as ferrosilicon. Authorities have lifted the gale warning for the area, but high winds and some rain are still forecast, which is expected to hamper recovery efforts. (Bloomberg, Oct. 11)

  2. New Zealand: stranded ship breaks in two
    The Rena container ship stranded on a New Zealand reef since October, split into two after stormy weather Jan. 7, spilling cargo and debris into the water. Both sections of the ship are still on the reef, about 30 meters apart, in rough weather. While most of the Rena‘s fuel has been removed, more than 800 containers and some oil were still on board before the vessel broke up, authorities said. In the October oil spill, up to 20,000 birds were killed. (Bloomberg, BBC World Service, Jan. 8)