The Rena leaks further

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.

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