The captain of the stricken vessel MV Rena has been arrested and charged overnight. An estimated 70 containers have fallen off the ship. Tuesday, 11.Oct.2011, 23:02 (GMT+3)
What you need to know:
* Ship's captain has been arrested and charged.
* An estimated 70 containers have fallen off the ship
* The ship's listing has worsened: it's now at 18deg
* There's a large swell at Mt Maunganui this morning, with strong winds, low visibility
* Environment Minister Nick Smith last night said this was NZ's "worst maritime environmental disaster"
The captain of the stricken vessel MV Rena has been arrested and charged overnight.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce told Radio New Zealand the captain was to appear in the Tauranga District Court this morning.
Mr Joyce said the captain would be charged under section 65 of the Maritime Act and that more charges were likely to follow.
Meanwhile at least 30 containers and as many as 70 containers have
fallen off the Rena overnight, after it began tilting at a much more
The ship was listing at 18deg - sparking a navigation warning about the
possibility of falling and submerged containers - after being at 11deg
for much of the past week.
Maritime New Zealand this morning confirmed the Navy ship Endeavour had reported the loss of the containers.
The agency's Steve Jones told Morning Report some of the containers will float, some would submerge and some would sink.
He confirmed it was likely many would wash up ashore due to the strong winds.
Radio New Zealand earlier reported at least one of the containers on the
ship that had been submerged contained ferrosilicon - which can be
hazardous and flammable when it comes in contact with water.
However Maritime New Zealand later said the eleven containers containing
hazardous substances are still on the vessel and are not among the up
to 70 estimated overboard.
The Rena started moving in 4m swells yesterday - forcing an emergency
evacuation of the crew - and a Maritime NZ spokesman said last night the
agency was becoming "increasingly concerned" about the ship's lean.
It was revealed yesterday that maritime officials turned down an early offer to have two barges help remove oil from the ship.
Hundreds of tonnes of oil leaked from the hull yesterday and Bay of Plenty beaches are expected to become black today.
Maritime New Zealand: 'no quick fix'
Maritime NZ director Catherine Taylor told a meeting of about 400
worried Bay of Plenty residents that bad weather had hampered efforts to
remove fuel oil from the Rena, and the situation was dangerous.
"We are at the mercy of the sea. It is not a quick fix," said Ms Taylor.
"I must prepare you for tomorrow morning - it will be much worse."
She urged people to work with authorities and register as volunteers, rather than cleaning up oil on their own.
"It is a bucket and spades operation," she said. "It will take some time."
Environment Minister Nick Smith said the grounding was New Zealand's worst maritime environmental disaster.
Residents attending the meeting at Tauranga Boys' College gasped and
shook their heads as they were shown pictures of oil spreading for
kilometres around the ship. They were told 17 live birds had been
recovered, but 53 had been found dead.
One local appeared to sum up the mood of the meeting, saying: "Minister
Smith, please call a state of emergency so you really can throw every
resource at this disaster."
Residents demanded to know whether the shipping company would pay for
repopulating the affected wildlife areas, what dangerous cargo was
aboard and what would happen if the ship sank.
A Greenpeace representative drew loud applause when he called on Mr
Smith to stop using the dispersant Corexit 9500, which he called "nasty
Many heckled the minister as he tried to defend the chemical, some shouting, "It's banned overseas".
Another woman demanded: "There is 18,000 metres of boom evidently
sitting in a warehouse in Auckland. Why is it not being used? We've got
some equipment in our own backyard - why are we not using it?"
Waves of up to 4m knocked the Rena into a new position on Astrolabe Reef, 20km off Tauranga, early yesterday.
Efforts to offload its 1700 tonnes of fuel oil have repeatedly failed amid ferocious weather.
Maritime NZ on-scene commander Nick Quinn said a Navy rating received
moderate injuries when a member of the salvage team fell on top of him
while climbing off the ship during yesterday morning's evacuation.
Nobody was on the ship last night as the salvage team waited for better
conditions to resume pumping the Rena's fuel load into the tanker
Awanuia - which was being repaired after smashing into the ship in high
Asked if there was a danger of the ship tipping over, Transport Minister
Steven Joyce said there was no indication it would break up or sink,
but the situation was "uncharted territory".
"It is entirely unusual for a ship to run itself onto a reef at 17 knots
... All of it is unusual so in this situation there is no copy book you
can refer to," he said.
Containers of concern
Mr Joyce said all the ship's fuel tanks and vents had been sealed, so if
it did break up or sink, the biggest concern would be the containers
If that happened, the Navy would work with Maritime NZ to find each container.
A Maritime NZ spokesman said seven containers stacked at the back of the
Rena were empty, so the agency was less worried about them falling off
"We're probably getting close to that tipping point, but we're less
worried because the weight isn't sitting seven-high on the lean. If
those containers were full ... we'd be much more worried.
"But obviously a ship like that shouldn't be on an 18deg lean."
Mr Smith believed that the "tragic event" was "absolutely inevitable"
from the point where the Rena struck the reef at full-speed early last
"The advice I'm receiving is that the amount of oil released over the
last 24 hours is five-fold compare to the amount released in earlier
periods, and that the situation over the coming days from an
environmental perspective is going to get significantly worse."
Offer of help to pump oil declined
It emerged yesterday that on the day the Rena struck the reef, Maritime
NZ declined an offer of two inflatable barges which could pump up to 100
tonnes of oil at a time.
The offer was made by Ronald Winstone, of Lancer Industries, who said
the two barges would have easily emptied the ship of toxic oil in the
four days of clear weather after the Rena ran aground.
"It would have taken them 17 trips to pump all the fuel off the ship and
three or four days wouldn't have been unrealistic for that to have
"It doesn't make sense why they didn't start pumping the oil earlier when they had the equipment to do it."
A Maritime NZ spokesman said Mr Winstone's offer was logged with its
operations division, and "if they needed it they would have followed it