Rena oil spill
|Rena oil spill|
Rena aground on Astrolabe Reef
|Location||Tauranga, New Zealand|
|Date||5 October 2011|
|Volume||Up to 2,500 barrels (400 m3)|
The Rena oil spill occurred off the coast of Tauranga in New Zealand. The spill was caused by the grounding of MV Rena on the Astrolabe Reef. The Rena was a container ship and cargo vessel owned by the Greek shipping company Costamare Inc., through one of its subsidiary companies, and chartered by the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC). The spill has been described as New Zealand's worst maritime environmental disaster.
Sequence of events
On Wednesday, 5 October 2011, at 2:20 AM (Tuesday, 4 October 13:20 UTC) while sailing in clear weather from Napier to Tauranga, and with a speed of 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph), Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef. The ship was carrying 1,368 containers, eight of which contained hazardous materials, as well as 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 200 tonnes of marine diesel oil. Initially the ship listed 11 degrees to port, with the front stuck on the reef.
By Sunday, 9 October 2011, a 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) oil slick threatened wildlife and the area's rich fishing waters.
Oil from Rena began washing ashore at Mount Maunganui beach on 10 October 2011. Bad weather that night had caused the ship to shift onto the reef, and the crew was evacuated. The shifting of the ship caused further damage, resulting in a further 130 - 350 tonnes of oil leaking.
Strong winds and bad weather on the night of 11 October 2011 caused the ship to list over to starboard 19 degrees; this resulted in between 30 and 70 containers being washed overboard. None of the containers contained hazardous cargo. Containers subsequently began washing ashore on Motiti Island.
On the afternoon of 12 October 2011, aerial footage showed a large crack in the hull of Rena, increasing fears that the ship could break in two and sink. It also showed a container floating in the water surrounded by smoke, suggesting that a chemical reaction was occurring.
On 13 October 2011, Maritime New Zealand ordered beaches from Mount Maunganui to Maketu Point, including the Maketu Estuary, to be closed to the public. Volunteers were warned that contact with spilled oil could lead to vomiting, nausea and rashes, and local residents were urged to close their windows to limit fumes.
Costamare Shipping, the owners of Rena, apologised to the people of Tauranga, saying they were "deeply sorry" for the "disastrous event." Although not legally obligated to do so, the charterer, Mediterranean Shipping Company, promised to help with the cleanup costs.
On 14 October 2011, it was reported that the ship had cracked completely in half, and was held together only by her internal structure and the reef. Calmer weather meant that preparations could be made to pump out the remainder of the ship's oil, but a change in the wind direction meant that oil was likely to spread as far east as Whakatane and Opotiki.
Calm weather on 15 October 2011, allowed salvage experts to board the vessel and begin preparations to pump the remaining oil to a barge. Platforms were attached to the side of the ship, and pumping began on 16 October 2011. By 17 October only twenty tons of oil had been removed.
After October, salvage efforts were focused on removing the ship's cargo before it completely broke apart.
In January 2012, the Rena completely broke in half and the stern slipped off of the reef and began sinking. A small amount of oil and containers escaped the ship as it broke in half.
Media coverage and public reactions
The incident was not immediately brought to the public eye since it took place on 5 October 2011, the same day the well-known American businessman Steve Jobs died. In addition to that, media outlets had their hands full with the Occupy Wall Street Movement that was also taking place at the time. Information about the oil spill did not surface on major news websites until four days later when CBC News published an article on 9 October 2011. British newspaper The Guardian then released a piece on the incident on 10 October 2011, followed by the BBC on 11 October 2011,. As seen in various YouTube videos, locals express their distraught and concern for what has happened Not only did the spill adversely affect their leisure activities, but it also raised major concern among citizens. Residents of the Motiti Island voiced their concerns over the effects the oil spill on their lifestyles since they rely on water filled in tanks and seafood from the affected waters for survival. It cost islanders approximately $100 to leave the island for food or water; this expense along with the toxic water and seafood raised concern amongst the citizens of Motiti Island that their lives might never be the same.
Moreover, New Zealand environmental minister, Nick Smith, had predicted that the situation caused by the oil spill would only deteriorate over the days. This was followed by another comment in which he said that the rate at which the oil was leaking from the ship increased five times more than the rate of the leakage from the first day. Smith suggested that the impact of this spill is the most significant in New Zealand history. Reporter Karen Barlow of Lateline said that this may not be the biggest ever oil spill, but that this event could be catastrophic for the pristine waters of the Bay of Plenty. Also, World Wildlife Fund spokesperson, Bob Zuur, confirmed the major loss of wildlife caused by the oil spill. Transport Minister Steven Joyce also commented that salvage teams are working in unsafe conditions. The oil continued to appear on the beach even after cleanup. This caused great discontent amongst salvage teams as this occurred in areas they have already cleaned.
"The cleanup for the Rena Oil spill will take time," said New Zealand scientist Dr. Norm Duke. "Petroleum oil will naturally break down - but this takes time and oxygenation. So, the longer the oil remains floating at sea - the safer it becomes. And, the rougher the weather - the better also."
Maritime New Zealand used the oil dispersant Corexit 9500 to help in the cleanup process. Corexit is known to increase the toxicity of oil. The dispersant was applied for only a week, after results proved inconclusive.
It took time for 'official' WWF workers to arrive on scene. Over the last 3 months the continued effort to clean up the oil has persisted "The majority of the oil on board the vessel has been removed, however some oil remains in the duct keel which is continuing to leak into the ocean." says the WWF
- In regards to other oil spills, the continued effort to maintain clean-up can persist for years. For example, clean-up from the BP Oil Spill is still continuing since 20 April 2010. Due to the costly measures which must be taken "About $1 billion has been set aside for those projects, an official says."
- The methods of cleanup are from the Maritime Transport Act 1994 and are broken into different tiers. "Maritime New Zealand said that a barge had begun pumping fuel from the stricken ship, but that work was called off to keep crews safe from heavy swells and gale-force winds forecast to hit the area. The operation is expected to last at least two more days once it resumes."
- In the end the cleanup crew is still continuing to fix the situation, when it initially began "The team has managed to recover 17 containers during the weekend. So far, 227 containers have been collected by experts since the dramatic oil spill." The situation with the oil spill has been disrupted by aggressive mako sharks and ocean wells at the beginning of the cleanup.
The most effected area was Matakana Island which 27 km stretch of ocean side beach was badly affected by debris. Locals of the island worked day and night to clean the beach and return it to its natural state. The local community of Matakana were devastated with the disaster as it has largely affected the native food source. Cleaning this particular stretch of beach is still underway and will take several years to return it to the way it was.
- As of 2011, there are approximately 400 trained responders to oil spills in the country. Marine Pollution Response Service advises that most of the responders have received low level training, estimating only 60 of the 400 trained to have achieved high level training. The Marine Pollution Response Service suggests that a higher level of training is required in various levels of response training.
- New Zealand is equipped with a National Response Team; however, there have been reports of insufficient development to the information and training given to this team.
- A salvage company named Svitzer was hired to assess the safety of coming salvage teams on the ship and to continue to carry out salvage procedures. Matthew Watson, a spokesman for Svitzer, described the key tasks carried out by the salvage teams to be removal of oil off of the ship (specifically through a transferring process) and the collection of released containers and other waste. Salvage teams were helicoptered onto the ship, as that was advised as the safest way.
- The Rena oil spill's disaster impacted the surrounding environment of the Astrolabe Reef and the coast of Tauranga in New Zealand quite extensively. The fuel on board the Rena consisted of 1,700 tonnes of heavy oil and 200 tonnes of diesel fuel. In the Bay of Plenty over a thousand tonnes of sand could be removed in order to get the oil out. After the oil spill of the Rena, 649 containers of cargo has been recovered. Unfortunately when this happened up to 300 containers were lost overnight.
- Within the range of where the oil spilled the rare New Zealand spotted dotterel bird and 25 other native birds species inhabit. Attempts by local people and 36 wildlife teams/centers to help save or decontaminate the avian species were established. Conayne from the Wildlife Rescue Center explains that a handful of fur seals had been captured to keep them out of the oil from the Rena. In another attempt to save the animals, people knitted jumpers and sweaters for little blue penguins to wear. These were designed to prevent the penguins from becoming cold and prevent them ingesting oil while preening. One group of 49 little penguins was successfully released back into the wild in late November 2011.
- Over the duration of the event, 383 oiled little blue penguins were admitted to the oiled wildlife facility. 95% of these (365 penguins) were released back to the wild with 18 admitted birds dying (thirteen required euthanasia and another five died in care). 89 dead oiled penguins were recovered through the response. Just over one quarter of these birds suffered 90-100% oiling.
- The tragedy caused about 2,000 seabirds deaths. An estimate of 20,000 birds are thought to be victims of the oil spill through their ecosystem and food sources being contaminated. One outcome that is not yet determined is the effect on the ocean's ecosystems in the area of where the Rena spilled the oil. WWF Rob Zuur explains "it would take years to know the full impact of the oil spill on the Bay of Plenty’s of ecosystems, which also contains huge marine kelp forests and is home to a large fishing industry". "Filter-feeding whales are at risk from sticky oil clinging to their baleen plates as they feed" said Al Fleming, Tauranga-based Central North Island field officer of New Zealand. According to Fleming, the oil's effect on finfish, shellfish, crustaceans and other marine life could be disastrous. In addition, the oil will affect birds and marine mammals by ingestion, and bio-accumulation whereby the toxicity of the oil can be responsible for long or short term effects.
- Blobs of heavy oil washed up on the beach shores of Mount Maunganui and Papamoa, and were expected to continue to wash up in other parts of New Zealand. The beaches affected were closed until cleanup crews arrived, and locals were instructed to keep a distance from the shore and the oil clusters.
The disaster occurred only seven weeks prior to the 2011 general election (which took place on 26 November 2011) and partially affected the campaign. On 14 October it was reported that the disaster had caused a 4% drop in the governing National Party's polling on the iPredict prediction market.
In 2012 the government announced a twelve-month environmental recovery plan for the area with an expected cost of NZ$2–3 million (US$1.6M–2.5M as of January 2012).
On 12 October 2011, the captain of Rena appeared in the Tauranga District Court charged with operating a vessel causing unnecessary danger or risk to a person or property. He was granted name suppression and remanded on bail. If convicted he faced a fine of up to $10,000 or up to 12 months imprisonment. The ship's second officer, who was responsible for navigation at the time of the accident, was subsequently charged and appeared in court on 13 October.
The two men, both Filipino, pleaded guilty to 11 charges between them, including attempting to pervert the course of justice (based on alleged alteration of navigational documents after the collision). The sentencing for both men was scheduled for 25 May 2012.
The (New Zealand) Transport Accident Investigation Commission released an interim report into the grounding on 8 March 2012. The report states only what happened but not why, and does not apportion blame. It states that Rena arrived at the port of Napier and began unloading cargo, but was forced to stand off in the harbour when a ship with priority booking arrived. Rena was therefore delayed 13 hours in leaving Napier. On making the run toward Tauranga, the captain was under pressure to make up time and to arrive at the port's pilot station by 3:00 am, and the ship's charts showed that a more direct course than usual had been set that took Rena toward Astrolabe Reef. An intermittent radar echo first noticed at 2:05 am was ignored when nothing was seen through binoculars, and at 2:14 Rena struck the reef.
On 25 May 2012, the captain and navigation officer appeared in Tauranga District Court for sentencing. Each was sentenced to 7 months imprisonment.
Treaty of Waitangi case
Three Bay of Plenty iwi groups have launched a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi case against the Crown. Their key concern is that they were not adequately consulted in regard to the Crown agreeing to receive $10 million as compensation for the remains of the wreck not being removed. The government agreed to the compensation payment when a storm caused the remains of the wreck to fall off the reef onto the seabed and marine demolition experts said it was too dangerous to remove it.
The second most extreme oil spill New Zealand has experienced since 1990 was the Jody F. Millennium log ship incident. The ship broke free from several of her moorings in Gisborne Harbour due to huge swells on Wednesday 6 February 2002. Tugboats attempted to bring the ship alongside the wharf, but it was then decided to take the ship to sea. A big swell hit the ship which then grounded on the beach. An estimated 25 tonnes of fuel oil leaked out of the ship.
- List of oil spills
- Environment of New Zealand
- Automated Data Inquiry for Oil Spills
- Environmental issues with petroleum
- Environmental issues with shipping
- National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan
- Ohmsett (Oil and Hazardous Materials Simulated Environmental Test Tank)
- Scuba Dive Site: Astrolabe Reef, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. Skaphandrus.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rena oil spill.|
- Animation of MV Rena on Astrolabe Reef
- Hundreds of photos of the Rena oil spill and its aftermath