Cargo Ship Off Tauranga Likely to Break Up

The Rena,  a Liberian flagged container ship, hit Astrolabe Reef last Wednesday 5th October. Weather conditions were good, and the reef is a well charted feature.

11 of the containers apparently contain ferrosilicon which according to the BBC’s website is flammable if it comes into contact with water. Wikipedia on the other hand says that “In contact with water, ferrosilicon may slowly produce hydrogen”. I’ll leave any chemists in the audience to their own conclusions.

The latest I’ve heard is that over a hundred containers have fallen off the ship which is now listing badly. In addition to the containers, there were around 1700 tonnes of oil aboard, of which 350 tonnes may have already leaked. Attempts to pump the oil off the ship on Sunday were abandoned when the weather deteriorated.

There is now a large crack in the hull, and the ship is still taking quite a pounding in the bad weather. There are plans to helicopter salvage workers on to reassess the damage tomorrow if it is possible. According to the New Zealand Herald, Prime Minister John Key this afternoon said the substantial fractures in the vessel made it much more likely to break up on the reef.

Oil has already reached some of the Bay of Plenty beaches, and a number of dead birds have been washed up. It is looking like being a major environmental disaster.

The captain and another officer have been charged with ‘operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk’.

More information on the BBC’s website, and a long article from the NZ Herald.

About Neil Hambleton

I am a British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Advanced Diver and an Open Water Instructor. I have been diving since 1992, after joining South China Diving Club (SCDC), which is a Hong Kong-based branch of the BSAC. Having moved to New Zealand, I am now a member of BSAC New Zealand.
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