The Rena report

December 20th, 2014 at 7:47 am by David Farrar

The TAIC report into the Rena is here. A key section:

The Rena’s second mate took over the watch shortly after midnight on 4 October. He calculated that the Rena would arrive at the port of Tauranga pilot station at 0300 at the ship’s then current speed. Times for ships entering and leaving Tauranga Harbour are limited by the depth of water and the strength of the tidal currents in the entrance channel. Tauranga Harbour Control informed the second mate that the latest time the Rena could take the harbour pilot on board was 0300.

The planned course to the Tauranga pilot station was to pass two nautical miles north of Astrolabe Reef before making the final adjustment in course to the pilot station. The second mate decided to reduce the two miles to one mile in order to save time. The second mate then made a series of small course adjustments towards Astrolabe Reef to make the shortcut. In doing so he altered the course 5 degrees past the required track and did not make an
allowance for any compass error or sideways “drift”, and as a consequence the Rena was making a ground track directly for Astrolabe Reef. Meanwhile the master had been woken and arrived on the bridge to prepare for arrival at the port.

The master and second mate discussed preparations for arrival at the pilot station. The master then assumed control of the ship, having received virtually no information on where the ship was, where it was heading, and what immediate dangers to navigation he needed to consider.

During this period of handover no-one was monitoring the position of the ship. At 0214 the Rena ran aground at full speed on Astrolabe Reef.

Bold is mine. Basically just incompetence.

Around 1,300 birds were known to die from the oil spill which followed the crash.  Some say only one in ten are found so it could be as high as 13,000.

To put it in comparison:


A threat is not a policy

March 3rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A couple of months ago Labour announced they would use any means possible to force the shareholders of Pike River to pay damages owed by the company.

Today they’re done similar and have said:

“A Labour government will clean the reef up. We will make the Rena’s owner pay through any means possible.”

That is not a policy. It is a threat or rhetoric posing as a serious statement.

Governments are not tyrants that can wave a wand and force a private company to pay money they are not legally obliged to pay. Regardless of your view on what the owners should do, the reality is Governments can’t force a company to pay money anymore than King Canute can keep back the tide.

The only thing a Government could attempt to do is pass a retrospective law forcing a company to pay money. The precedent of such an act would be hideous, but possible. Is this what Labour is saying it wiil do? If so, they need to come out and be explicit.

Just saying we will make the owner pay through any means possible is not a policy. It isn’t even a promise. It is meaningless rhetoric. If Labour can’t say what specific action they would take to make the owner pay, then their policy is as opaque as their leader’s secret trust fund.

Greenpeace ad ruled misleading

April 4th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Advertising Standards Authority has partially upheld a complaint against a Greenpeace television advertisement. The TV ad showing a dead penguin said:

Over 20,000 birds were killed by the ‘Rena’ oil spill

Deep sea oil drilling could be 1000 times worse

Bryan Leland complained pointing out that the  count for the Rena was around 1,300 not 20,000 and that the 20 million estimate for a deep sea oil drill is ridiculous as the Gulf of Mexico spill killed 3,800 seabirds.

Greenpeace’s response on the 20,000 was that research shows 10 times as many birds die in oil spills as carcasses found.

Their response on 1,000 times worse is based on the Gulf spill being over 1,000 times as much oil as the Rena. They say their advertisement was meant to be that the impact on the environment would be 1,000 times worse, not that 1,000 times as many birds would die.

Interestingly in their response Greenpeace say the complaint should be ignored because Bryan Leland is a member of the Climate Science Coalition. Unable to win on the facts, they now try to get complaints dismissed on the basis of membership of a group.  That is a terrible thing to do, and they should be ashamed. How would they like it if someone advocated that a complainant should not be heard, because they are a member of Greenpeace.

The ASA Complaints Board found:

The Complaints Board was of the view that the statement “20,000 birds were killed” was expressed in a manner that denoted a strong absolute statement of fact.  It said that the Advertiser had presented a best practice estimate as an absolute fact when as they had stated in their response to the complaint it had only been “reported that over 2000 birds had been identified which had died as a direct result of the accident [Rena]”.  Accordingly the Complaints Board said the statements expressed in the advertisement were not clearly distinguishable as opinion (as opposed to fact) and therefore the advertisement was in breach of Rule 11 of the Code of Ethics.

If Greenpeace had said “Some estimates are that as many as 20,000 birds died” then they may possibly have got away with it. Or they could have just kept to the facts and said 2,000 dead birds were found.

On the 1,000 times worse:

Turning to the second substantive claim identified in the complaint, that a deep sea drilling incident could be “1000 times worse” (than the Rena incident), the Complaints Board noted that the use of the word “could” presented the claim as an opinion or possibility as opposed to an absolute fact.

By using “could” they get away with it, despite the fact most people would take the ad to be credibly suggesting an oil spill could kill 20 million birds, when the Gulf of Mexico spill killed just 3,800.

Incidentally, even if the figure of 20 million was correct, it would be useful to remember that predators such as possums and stoats kill 25 million birds a a year in New Zealand.

Rena pleads guilty

February 29th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The captain of the cargo ship which grounded on a reef off Tauranga last year has pleaded guilty to all charges against him.

The Rena hit the Astrolabe Reef in October last year causing an environmental disaster – spilling oil and containers into the water and killing masses of sea animals. The stricken ship broke in two early this year.

The captain pleaded guilty today in the Tauranga District Court to charges laid under the Maritime Transport Act, Crimes Act and Resource Management Act.

Good to have the guilty pleas. It will be interesting to see the summary of facts when it is released.

Looting or Salvage?

January 15th, 2012 at 9:55 am by David Farrar

Readers may be able to solve a debate a few of us were having yesterday.

If containers from the Rena wash up on a beach and there is no representative of the owner there to claim them, is it looting to help yourself to the contents, or it is salvage under international marine law?

I think it qualifies as looting as people surely know who the owner is, but a lawyer friend (not a specialist in marine law though) said that people have a right to salvage anything that washes up unless the owner is there to claim it.

Anyone want to clarify the law?


January 11th, 2012 at 8:56 am by David Farrar

The Herald has an editorial on the Rena. It is generally fair and balanced. The conclusion:

But quibbles after the fact do not alter the impression that after a slow start, the response has been effective. If the Rena has been our worst maritime environmental disaster, it could have been much worse.

But I quibble over one aspect:

That plan, as far as it goes, was strikingly successful this time. Though countless seabirds perished from the slick, the beaches were cleaned so quickly and efficiently that they were safe for swimming, fishing and other activities before Christmas.

Countless? They have in fact been counted and it is around 2,000.

Incidentally possums and other predators kill around 500,000 birds a week in New Zealand. They just do it without cameras around generally!

The Rena has split

January 8th, 2012 at 12:31 pm by David Farrar

This photo by Maritime NZ, at the Herald, shows that the Rena has finally split in two.

Inevitably it means more containers will be lost at sea, but not necessarily all the remaining ones. It looks like they may be able to continue moving the containers off, once the weather improves. However it will be much riskier I suspect.

You look at that photo, and think that is not a place you would want to be.

Rena Support

November 2nd, 2011 at 3:06 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Tauranga businesses will receive compensation from the Government, if they can prove that their company has been affected by the Rena grounding.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced today that small businesses would receive some support.

“This Rena Support Subsidy will give the worst-affected businesses, which rely on the sea and coastline, a hand to keep paying their staff,” she said.

The business must operate within or near the maritime exclusion zone to be eligible.

They would need to show that they have already used any insurance cover and were unable to relocate their operation.

“From Monday, businesses that meet these criteria and have no other way to pay their staff can apply for the six week support package,” Bennett said.

The package included a $500 subsidy for full-time staff and $300 for part time staff. It was only available for sole traders and small businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

Sounds very reasonable.

Labour’s latest campaign tactic

October 18th, 2011 at 5:50 pm by David Farrar

This was posted to Facebook today by the Labour Party candidate for Rodney – Christine Rose.


So John Key didn’t only arrange the H Fee, he also blew up the Pike River mine, arranged the earthquakes and was the pilot of the Rena.

Again, this is a Labour Party candidate, not just an activist, who approvingly Facebooked this photo. Is this who you want in Government?

Goff-s moratorium u-turn

October 17th, 2011 at 11:46 am by David Farrar

This cartoon by Blunt is very timely as Goff has just done a u-turn and backed away from his previous call for there to be a moratorium on deep sea drilling.

Listen to Goff on Radio Wammo below.

He now says he is not against off shore oil prospecting but there has to be safeguards. Well who the hell would disagree with that? Ironically there were no safeguards around drilling in the EEZ until National and the Greens voted for some last year, and Labour voted against!

Listen to the interview from 3 minutes on as Goff tries to explain why he said he was against a moratorium last week, then announced Labour would have a moratorium and now tries to say that all he is after is some safeguards!

I’m glad Goff has backed down as a moratorium was the worst sort of populist crap, and also would have probably resulted in closing down a number of operations in Taranaki.

Perspective by numbers

October 16th, 2011 at 10:45 am by David Farrar

I’m an animal lover, so like many hate seeing the photos of poor little birds covered in oil, or dead, on Bay of Plenty beaches. And I loved the footage on TV of the surviving birds being cared for in a pool.

But having said that, it is useful to put the numbers in perspective.

  • Birds killed by the Rena – 1,000
  • Birds killed annually (in NZ) by predators (possums, stoats etc) – 25,000,000
  • Birds killed daily by predators – 68,500
  • Birds killed annually by hunters – 1,000,000
  • Birds killed daily by hunters during hunting season – 11,000
  • Chickens killed for NZers food annually – 77,000,000
  • Birds killed by power lines annually – 1,700,000
  • Birds killed by automobiles – 800,000
  • Birds killed by wind turbines – 500

I think the Rena is an environmental disaster – definitely. But is it the worst environmental disaster of all time as some media have trumpeted? Not so sure about that.

HMNZS National

October 14th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

In my Herald column I ask whether the HMNZS National will be able to get off the reef. The beginning:

I was asked at a speaking engagement a couple of weeks ago whether the election was a foregone conclusion, as there was such a lead in the polls for National. My response was to quote former United Kingdom Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and say “Events, dear boy, events”. This famous quote was Macmillan’s response to the question of what is most likely to blow a Government off course. And the blowing of the Rena off course onto a reef near Tauranga most definitely is an event.


A desperate opportunism

October 14th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Patrick Gower at 3 News reports:

The Rena’s oil is polluting plans for New Zealand’s deep sea oil drilling.

The Government wants it to go ahead, but Labour has now decided that what has happened here proves the risk is too big.

So Phil Goff has promised Labour will put a moratorium on any deep sea drilling.

An oil spill was always going to have political fallout. That means photo opportunities and politicians fighting each other on the beaches.

“I don’t think Phil Goff wandering around with a bucket and spade is actually going to fix the problem,” says Prime Minister John Key.

Mr Goff is already digging into other issues; like the Government’s desire for deep sea drilling.

Today he revealed that if Labour gets into power, there will be a moratorium on deep sea drilling until it can be deemed safe.

Now this sudden snap policy is because a cargo ship steered full speed into a reef. Is Labour going to also announce a ban on all cargo ships?
The moratorium is a cheap gimmick anyway as any actual new deep sea digging would be years and years away anyway, so there is nothing to stop. Labour were more sensible back in 2010 when they said:

“Then there was the review of health, safety and environmental legislation for offshore petroleum operations. Now a report on health and safety found that there was room for improving the existing framework and that events in the Gulf of Mexico would further inform safety standards.“New Zealand should look to overseas best practice standards, and it should also be mindful of the unique factors of our own environment when it comes to deep-sea drilling.

“Most New Zealanders want a greater assurance that the Health and Safety Standards for deep-sea drilling and a comprehensive test in favour of the environment is central to reforming the legislative framework for offshore petroleum operations. While I welcome the call for submissions on this question, the Minister needs to balance industry concerns with the wider public.

“The country needs an ambitious plan for increasing investment in renewable energy schemes, clean technology, and an improved health and safety standards regime for all mining operations.

It is all about safety standards, not about making policy up on the spot in a desperate attempt to win votes.

Goff’s reaction to 9/11 would probably have been to ban planes, as without planes thne they could not have been hijacked and flown into buildings where their fuel exploded.

UPDATE: Maybe Goff meant that the existing off shore drilling in Taranaki should be immediately suspended? I wonder how that would go down in New Plymouth and what are the views of Labour’s New Plymouth candidate on this policy? I can;t imagine it will help him win the seat, but maybe that is the deliberate strategy from Goff?

The Rena

October 12th, 2011 at 2:40 pm by David Farrar

I’ve heard from a source that sadly the Rena is breaking in half. Note this is not confirmed. If so, then it will become a mitigation operation.

Transporting goods by shipping is generally considered more environmentally friendly than roads, but alas in this case not so much.

The Rena leaks further

October 11th, 2011 at 12:31 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

An oil spill from the stricken cargo ship off the coast of Tauranga has increased in size “several times over” due to a new breach in a main fuel tank.

Maritime New Zealand said between 130 and 350 tonnes of oil leaked out of the Rena this morning.

It had previously estimated a spill of between 20 and 30 tonnes.

A spokesman said the massive new spill meant oil was now spewing from a main fuel tank on the vessel.

He said oil was continuing to leak from the tank and was heading south west towards Mt Maunganui.

“One of the main tanks has been breached. It is very significant in the scheme of things.” …

Maritime New Zealand says the Rena’s orientation on the reef has changed by about 4 degrees, and that as a precautionary measure, further non-essential crew members had been taken off the ship with assistance from the Navy.

Incident Controller Rob Service says the oil’s been reported on Mt Maunganui and Papamoa beaches, but is likely to eventually extend as far south to as Maketu.

It’s highly likely that oil will enter the harbour area, and Maritime New Zealand says this can’t be prevented due to very strong currents -but it will be cleaned up.

Mt Maunganui is a stunning beach. I went there often when I was younger, and still get to enjoy it occassionaly when visiting friends in the area. I hate the thought of such a lovely beach being drenched in oil.

350 tonnes of oil is a shit load, and will take a significant period of time to disperse, and even longer to have its impact neutralised. It does pale in comparison I guess with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill which was around 610,000 tonnes or 1,750 times as big as this.

There is focus on whether Maritime NZ reacted as quickly as it could have. I don’t know enough to judge, but I would make the observation that there have been other issues with that entity which have not filled me with huge confidence. The Government could do well to ensure that after the boat is salvaged or sunk and the clean up done, that there is an independent inquiry into the response by Maritime NZ. No need for a full commission of inquiry, but it would be good to establish if we can do better in future. It is impossible of course to prevent an accident of this nature, which is why we need to focus on how to mitigate the consequences in future.