Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rena: Going...Going...?

It's just a waiting game now.
The stranded container ship Rena is expected to break up - sooner rather than later - in the current rough weather off Tauranga.
Swells of up to 5m have forced salvors to stop work. Crews frantically tried to remove the remaining 358 tonnes of oil, after successfully transferring about 1000 tonnes in a window of good weather over the past week – but the estimates of how fast the oil could be transferred were grossly over-optimistic.
New damage is evident on Rena, further back from the main crack in the hull. The ship is holding in one piece for now, but creaking and groaning. Salvage teams are preparing for it to break as conditions worsen.
Salvage company Svitzer says if the rear section breaks away, it hopes the powerful tug Go Canopus can tow it to shallower water, which would make things easier if it sinks – the tug is already connected to Rena in anticipation. Svitzer has attached tracking devices to dangerous goods containers and others most likely to fall into the sea (they must have read my blog!). Mind you, I've not heard any reason why the stacks of containers could not have been dragged off the ship by tugs, thus lightening the load somewhat. Sure, the contents may have been ruined - but they'd be insured anyway.
Maritime NZ says in this rough weather, it's too dangerous to have salvors on board. And even though the bigger seas will disperse some of the fresh oil likely to leak from Rena, Tauranga residents can expect a lot more to hit their once-pristine beaches very soon.
Meanwhile the captain and navigational officer have both been charged under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act 1994 "for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk". They're back in court today: if found guilty, they face up to 12 months' jail, or fines up to $10K...
Court Update: Rena's captain and second officer have had fresh charges laid against them, of discharging harmful substances from a ship. The latest charge carries a maximum fine of $300K, or two years' jail, and $10K for every day the offending continues. They were remanded on bail without plea until Dec.21.

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