Half of the container ship Rena stranded on a New Zealand reef for more than three months is sinking after breaking up in rough seas and littering beaches with cargo and debris.
Most of the stern section of the 236-meter (774 foot) vessel has slipped off the Astrolabe reef and is submerged, according to a statement on the Maritime New Zealand website. The rest of the hull, which split off two days ago, remains on the reef.
The vessel ran aground on Oct. 5 near Tauranga, 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Auckland, losing cargo into the sea and spilling as much as 350 metric tons of oil in the nation’s worst environmental disaster. More containers, oil and debris have been lost today and are headed for shore, Maritime New Zealand said.
The Liberian-flagged ship, owned by Athens-based Costamare Shipping Co. (CMRE), was carrying 1,368 containers and about 1,700 metric tons of fuel oil when it struck the reef, according to the agency. A tanker moored alongside the Rena took off 1,000 tons of oil since the grounding after leaking fuel blackened beaches in the area and killed seabirds. About 389 containers were also removed.
The Rena was hit by seven-meter waves over the weekend and a three-nautical-mile exclusion zone around the vessel was enforced. Another 150 containers were lost after the two sections moved about 30 meters apart on Jan. 8, according to Maritime New Zealand.
Oil Spill Response
The quantity of oil lost today is not known and is a fraction of the amount released in October, it said. The oil is expected to reach nearby Motiti Island later today and the mainland shore tomorrow, the agency said. Clean-up and wildlife response teams are being reactivated.
Salvors estimate about 400 containers are in the stern section, Maritime New Zealand said. The ship was carrying 619 twenty-foot containers and 749 forty-foot containers, or the equivalent of 2,117 twenty-foot units when it grounded, the agency said.
Tugs have been sent to monitor and collect any drifting containers, the agency said. Another tug attached to the stern tried to reposition it on the reef to aid container recovery, but this proved impossible, it said.
Since the ship split, 12 containers have come ashore, while workers tagged 21 others with buoys and planned to collect them when the weather improves, Maritime New Zealand said yesterday. Defense force personnel used mine-clearing equipment to check for debris in harbor channels.
Port of Tauranga Ltd., New Zealand’s largest export port, today said normal shipping movements are continuing, according to an e-mailed statement.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Bourke in Wellington at firstname.lastname@example.org;
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Bourke at email@example.com