New Zealand authorities expect that pollution will get worse but say there seems to be no danger of a container ship breaking up as it sits stuck on a reef just off the east coast of the country’s North Island.
The country’s Environment Minister Nick Smith said: “This event has come to a scale where it is New Zealand’s most significant maritime environmental disaster.”
The Greek-owned Rena is stranded 12 nautical miles from Tauranga, with its two forward compartments holed and flooded. Pumping off more fuel will have to wait for calmer weather. The sea was running a five-metre swell.
A Radio New Zealand journalist at the scene, Andrew MacRae, told euronews: “The whole thing is at the mercy of the sea, and because they’re not on board anymore at the moment, and it’s dark, they can’t see what’s going on. They did have a barge out there a couple of days ago trying to pump the 1,700 tonnes of oil off, but that ran into problems straight away and only something like 11 tonnes were taken off. And when they can get the barge back out there, and that depends on the weather, it will take probably 24-48 hours before it can then start pumping the oil off.”
The fine sand beaches affected are a prime attraction for surfers at the best of times. Further out, the sea has an international reputation for big-game fishing. Volunteers are shovelling up clumps of oil.
Local fisherman Barry Connolly told euronews: “Some of the people who’ve been here from all around the world, who have seen it, have said this is one of the most beautiful beaches that they’ve ever seen, so everybody here is pretty pissed off!”
The ship struck the Astrolabe Reef, which is clearly marked on charts, last Wednesday.