Oil Stops Leaking From Ship on Reef as New Zealand Plans to Unload Fuel

Oil may have stopped seeping from a container ship stuck on a reef near the northerly New Zealand port of Tauranga as authorities prepare to remove fuel from the stricken vessel.

A film of thinly spread oil, known as sheen, is moving away from nearby islands, Maritime New Zealand said in a statement at 11 a.m. local time today. The slick is shifting westward and is lying between two miles (3.2 kilometers) and five miles from the 236-meter (774-foot) vessel, the government agency said.

“From our perspective, this is good,” National On-Scene Commander Rob Service said in the statement. “There are darker patches in isolated pockets.” Chemicals to help disperse the fuel will be withheld for any thicker areas of oil, he said.

New Zealand has scrambled 500 defense personnel and deployed four naval vessels, as well as underwater and aerial assessment teams to prepare for any cleanup. Maritime New Zealand has said the priority is removing fuel from the stranded ship, which struck the reef about 12 nautical miles off the country’s northeastern coast on Oct. 5.

The 32-year-old, Liberian-flagged Rena is carrying 25 uninjured crew members, 2,171 containers and some dangerous goods, according to Maritime New Zealand.

That cargo includes four containers of ferrosilicon, a solid substance that can be hazardous when in contact with water and can emit hydrogen, the agency said. New Zealand’s Green Party today called on the government to release details of the ship’s entire cargo.

Damaged Pipes

Two of the ship’s holds have flooded and the ship is listing although it is stable, according to the Maritime New Zealand website. Fuel escaped from damaged pipes while tanks containing more oil are undamaged, according to the website.

The “complex” operation to remove Rena’s fuel is likely to start on Oct. 10, Service said late yesterday in a statement.

Salvage and environmental experts are converging on Tauranga, and nearby islands and reefs, to consider ways to protect the shoreline. The port is in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, southeast of Auckland.

While no oil has reached beaches, the slick has harmed seabirds. Five blue penguins and two shags, some completely covered with oil, were taken to a wildlife response center for treatment, Maritime New Zealand said in an earlier statement.

More than 100 workers are involved in preparation to collect the oil, including specialist vessels, an oil boom, and personnel and equipment from Australia, New Zealand Transport Minister Steven Joyce told reporters in Tauranga yesterday.

Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd., the world’s largest dairy exporter, has 89 containers of product destined for customers in Asia and the Middle East on the ship, the Auckland-based company has said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angus Whitley in Sydney at awhitley1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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