Salvors removing oil from the stricken cargo vessel Rena face the most difficult part of the operation now that more than half of the ship’s fuel has been removed.
An estimated 705 tons of oil remains on board the vessel on the Astrolabe Reef – 645 tons have been successfully removed, and around 350 tons have leaked into the sea since it was grounded on October 5.
The pumping operation continued overnight, but Maritime New Zealand Salvage Unit Manager Bruce Anderson said the most challenging phase of the operation is yet to come.
“The salvors now have the pumping system working well and they are getting good transfer rates, which is excellent,” he said. “However, the second half of the oil is in around four tanks, rather than one – and one of them is submerged underwater.”
Anderson said the salvors are working on a new system to pump 250 tons of fuel from the engine room directly into a tug boat, rather than transferring it into another part of the ship.
At the moment the salvors are pumping the oil from the engine room into a fuel tank at the rear of the vessel so it can be pumped into the tanker Awanuia.
“Transferring the oil direct to (tug boat) Go Canopus will hopefully speed up the process,” Anderson said.
Meanwhile, the latest fuel spilled from the ship is expected to take a couple of days to reach land.
Between 5 and 10 tons of fuel leaked into the sea on Saturday night and is expected to wash up on Mayor Island or the Coromandel in the next few days.
National On Scene Commander Rob Service said the oil would be weathered and likely to wash up on the shoreline as tar patties or tar balls.
“We have a team going to Tuhua (Mayor Island) today to assess the use of booms to protect key areas. We have also sent teams to assess the impact any oil reaching the shore could have on wildlife,” he said.
Mayor Island is a wildlife refuge, home to many native birds, and has a five-square-kilometre marine reserve off its northern coast.
Courtesy of www.tvnz.co.nz.