WITH POSITIVE PROGRESS, RENA SALVAGE OPERATION NOW PREPARING FOR WINTER
Following faster than expected progress in the recovery of containers from the MV Rena in recent weeks and possible extreme weather conditions over the winter months, planning is currently underway in preparation for the next stages of the operation.
As part of this process, the owners and insurers are in close liaison with Maritime New Zealand as they have been throughout the operation.
All accessible containers in the bow section have now been removed, leaving just 18 damaged or empty containers in the section that remains on Astrolabe reef.
The Smit Borneo (a specialized salvage vessel which has supported container removal from the bow), has now completed its contribution to the operation and is likely return to its home base in Singapore in the next few weeks.
The Smit/Svitzer joint venture has achieved this important milestone one month ahead of schedule. We thank them for their efforts and the positive contribution they have made over the past eight months.
Braemar Howells, who have been responsible for retrieving lost containers and removing any debris which comes ashore since October 2011, will take on an expanded role to work inside the exclusion zone over the winter months, overseeing the wreck’s safety and security, monitoring its status day to day, and minimizing and clearing any debris that escapes from the vessel through adverse weather conditions.
Discussions are continuing with salvors regarding the technical aspects of wreck removal for future stages of the operation.
Maritime New Zealand Rena Update #222
· Relatively calm weather conditions at the beginning of the week allowed good progress to be made on salvage activities before strong winds later in the week.
· Working conditions for divers, however, were described as very challenging with congealed milk fat floating on the sea making surfaces very greasy.
· Containers Smit Borneo’s crane could not reach were removed by the heavy lift helicopter.
· Containers lodged underwater on the starboard side of the fore section are described as being very difficult to remove.
· It was evident that the fore section was subject to much more movement, with the whole structure appearing to be in motion as a result of the impact of the swell.
· The majority of No 3 hold has gone completely, parts of it having been removed by gas cutting with the remainder collapsing due to the swell.
· All hatch lids have been removed from it.
· In general, the fore section continues to deteriorate as a result of continuing bad weather.
Container and debris recovery
· The Braemar team is finalising preparations for final phase of underwater container recovery plan – the lifting and recovery of a number of containers from the seabed.
· The Braemar/Unimar team says that weather permitting, it hopes to begin retrieving containers in about a week’s time.
· Operations Manager Neil Lloyd says that big seas have caused delays, but the team’s divers have managed to pre-rig more than half a dozen containers in relatively shallow water, so that work can begin on hoisting them to the surface as soon as sea conditions are calm enough.
· He says that it’s highly satisfying for Braemar and the Rena owners to reach this point after eight months of concerted efforts, including sidescan sonar surveys of a large area of the Bay of Plenty coast, to pinpoint the location of containers.
· Neil Lloyd says the coastal area was broken down into a number of sections and methodically grid-searched in what has been an often difficult and painstaking process, hampered by weather conditions. An ROV (remote vehicle) has been used to help investigate the targets, some of which have been eliminated on close inspection.
· The lifting operation will basically involve rigging the containers with slings and lifting them onto the barge ST 60 before bringing them ashore for processing. “But even now the sonar-equipped vessel is continuing to search for more containers on the seabed,” Mr Lloyd says.
· Shore cleanup operations are also continuing on local islands and beaches, especially on the Coromandel at places such as Sailor’s Grave. Some pieces of container have also been recovered from Waihi Beach.
· The number of containers recovered and brought ashore stands at 932. Excellent progress has been made at the wreck site over recent weeks with over 100 containers recovered.
Oil spill response
· Members of the public are encouraged to keep reporting any sightings of oil to the oil spill response hotline on 0800 OIL SPILL (0800 645 774).
· The oil spill response has been reduced from a Tier 3, or national level, to Tier 2, or regional level, response. Any queries about the oil spill response should now be directed to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
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Carol Nichols | Senior Communications Advisor | Bay of Plenty Regional Council | Tauranga, New Zealand | Ph: 0800 884 881 ext 8150| Web: www.boprc.govt.nz