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Monday, January 9, 2012

MV Rena splits into two off Tauranga

Chardonnay  is a type of  green-skinned grape variety used to make white wine.  It is vinified in many different styles, from the lean, crisply mineral wines of Chablis, France to New World wines with tropical fruit flavors.  This grape is available aplenty in Bay of Poverty after which the other region was named Bay of Plenty.

The city of Tauranga in the North island of New Zealand has attracted more International news than it ever did – sadly due to the agrounding of vessel MV Rena.  Tauranga lies in the north-western corner of the Bay of Plenty, on the south-eastern edge of Tauranga Harbour. The Port of Tauranga is New Zealand's largest port in terms of gross export tonnage even as the city is one of its fastest growing  cities.
I had earlier posted about the action in  Astrolabe Reef  near Motiti Island, off the Bay of Plenty coast in New Zealand.  It was the agrounding of MV Rena on 5th October 2011.  The vessel involved was a a Cargo ship  of 235M length with Liberia flag.  Its IMO No. was 8806802 with call sign  A8XJ7.  I had also posted about the tough salvage action – the joy of success when the first container was lifted off the stricken vessel.  There was also news of   all of the oil onboard the ship been taken off and efforts being  focussed on taking the 1280 containers onboard the ship back to shore. 
Salvage at sea is always extremely difficult and after days of hard work, the result could turn unsavoury.
Years ago, I had witnessed in close quarters a fishing boat getting struck in the sands of Hope Island off Kakinada.  At that time of my visit it did look sturdy and strong – the engine had failed, the boat went adrift and ran aground on the sands of the island.  A local group of Salvors who were famous as having retrieved many vessels were in action.  They were trying to dig the sand under the belly of the boat, pushing it manually and trying to pull the boat to waters by other boats.  A couple of days later came the information that ‘salvage efforts had failed and the boat had broken’ – the photos revealed only a few large planks and no trace of what was once a fishing trawler !! 
Reports from Newzealand of 8th Jan 2012 confirm the worst fears -  it is stated that severe weather overnight with seas of over six meters has separated the MV Rena into two pieces.   According to newspapers, the  forward section of the ship is in its original position on the reef, with the stern section moving an estimated 30 meters from the bow section, after the stern pivoted about 13 degrees to starboard, but still on the reef.

At 7 PM (NZDT), container recovery company Braemar Howells estimated that between 200 and 300 containers of the approximately 830 remaining on the Rena were lost overboard when the two sections of the ship separated, of which 30 had been identified and 17 tagged with buoys. Due to poor visibility and the rough conditions around the Rena, it was difficult to gain a more accurate count.  It is further reported that a vessel equipped with sonar is searching for other containers, and the priority was to ensure that the shipping lanes remained clear. Several different vessels, including tugs, barges and landing craft,   are on stand-by to recover the containers and debris as soon as conditions allowed.
The National Oiled Wildlife Response Team has been activated to respond to the potential release of oil from the ship, and  there are proposed checks at  Mount Maunganui and Leisure Island for oiled birds overnight.  At a  press conference in Tauranga, Environment Minister Nick Smith said that the efforts of MNZ and the salvors over the last three months ensured that the impact of the Rena’s break-up was much less than would have been the case when the vessel first went aground.  He was quoted as saying that the risk  to the environment is a fragment of what it was, with at the most tens of tons of oil rather than hundreds of tons that potentially could be spilled.
So after days of struggle, the worst fears are confounded by the news that the vessel has broken into two and lying in two pieces.   Though the oil slick is reported to have been vastly reduced still around 385 tones of oil is believed to be aboard MV Rena, in its stern section.  Tonnes of milk powder that were among the Rena's cargo have already been spilled, surrounding the Rena with cloudy waters. Timber and other debris have also been spotted.  Between 200 and 300 cargo containers had been washed overboard after the splitting of the vessel and most of them are expected to sink.  Maritime New Zealand has advised residents to stay out of the water and report any debris to authorities.  1000 sea birds are feared killed arising out of this agrounding.  The ship's captain and other officers face criminal charges relating to the wreck, the BBC reported.
Goods washed ashore remain the property of their original owners, and people are being warned against looting. However, this hasn't stopped locals flocking to the beaches to take photos of the containers.   The area around Tauranga relies on the tourism industry and has already been hit economically by the impact of a virulent vine disease contracted by the Kiwifruit vines in the area.
The agrounding, failed salvage, splitting-up of the vessel and washing ashore of containers have all added to the trouble of the otherwise calm place. 
With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


  1. Quite interesting post Sir - Yogesh

  2. Despite man's best effort, often Nature is more powerful - Gosh