New Zealand Salvage Team Halts Ship’s Oil Removal on Weather

Salvage teams suspended the removal of oil from a stranded container ship off the northeastern coast of New Zealand because of rough seas and strong winds.

About 90 metric tons of oil was pumped off the vessel before operations were halted at about 11:30 p.m. local time yesterday, Maritime New Zealand said in a statement on its website. All salvage crew have been removed because of the poor weather conditions, the agency said.

“The ship remains in a similar condition to what it was yesterday, with cracks down each side but is still held together through its internal structure,” Andrew Berry, head of the Maritime New Zealand salvage unit, said in the statement.

Rena, the Athens-based Costamare Shipping Co.’s vessel, remains “in a precarious state” and more oil could wash up on beaches, Prime Minister John Key said yesterday. Cracks appeared in the hull last week, raising concern the ship may break apart more than a week after it ran aground near Tauranga, 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Auckland.

Poor weather was expected to impact both the salvage and oil recovery operations today, Maritime New Zealand said. The ship was being rocked by waves as high as four meters and winds of 35 knots (65 kilometers per hour) were blowing.

As many as 1,290 birds have been found dead following the accident and there are 235 birds and three seals being cared for at a wildlife facility, Maritime New Zealand said.

The Rena was carrying 1,368 containers and about 1,700 metric tons of fuel oil, according to maritime officials. As many as 350 tons of oil may have spilled from the vessel.

The cargo on the 32-year-old, Liberian-flagged Rena includes four containers of ferrosilicon, a solid substance that can be hazardous when in contact with water and can emit hydrogen, according to the agency.

As many as 88 containers have fallen from the ship and almost half of them are empty, it said on Oct. 15.

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