Cargo around the wreck of a stricken cargo ship has broken up
and contaminated the water surrounding the Astrolabe Reef off
Early indications from dive surveys have suggested that of
the 36 remaining containers in the stern section carrying
known contaminants, many have broken up and their contents
have escaped since the vessel broke in two and sank,
authorities said today.
Three containers, with cargo intact, were recovered; four
were retrieved but were empty of contents; another seven were
recovered in pieces; the contents of the remaining 22 are
presumed lost to sea.
Sampling had confirmed there was elevated levels of
contaminants close to the ship, which was wrecked after
striking the reef on October 5, 2011.
Scientists were working to determine the significance of the
contaminants, including any impact on marine life around the
Professor Chris Battershill, University of Waikato Chair of
Coastal Science, said it had been expected that contaminants
would be found at the ship wreck site and they are now
working directly with the salvors to access the reef to
collect more samples.
"Sediment samples have shown elevated levels of contaminants
including copper and PAH's (polyaromatic hydrocarbons) which
are known contaminants that were lost to sea from the Rena
and its cargo," he said.
"While we only have limited sampling information at this
point, early indications are that the contamination is
Bay of Plenty Medical Officer of Health Dr Jim Miller said
while the two nautical mile exclusion zone remains in place,
these results did not change current advice that there is no
appreciable food safety risk from the Rena.
Resolve Salvage & Fire, appointed by the owners and
insurers of the Rena are using specialist heavy-lifting
equipment to remove cargo, wreck and container debris over
approximately 10,000 square metres from around the wreck.
This work would enable scientists to undertake a more
detailed study of the surface of the reef to help determine
what if any contaminants remain trapped. Resolve will manage
the removal of identified contaminants.
Professor Battershill said that the work is being carried out
as quickly as possible but a full analysis would take time.
"We are working hard to get more information for the public
as soon as we can. Once all the sampling, testing and
analysis has taken place it is likely to be March when we
will next be able to provide an update."
The ship split in two in early January last year and salvage
operations before that had been unable to reach the
containers as they were in the lower holds and inaccessible.
Of the 1368 containers carried on board at the time of the
grounding, 1007 have been recovered.
Resolve is now using specialist heavy-lifting equipment to
remove the large amounts of remaining cargo, wreck and
container debris from an area approximately 10,000 square
metres around the wreck.
More than 256 tonnes of debris has been removed in the last
Studies into the environmental, cultural, economic and safety
impacts of the different options for dealing with the wreck
were near complete.
A further round of community consultation will be held late
next month, before a final decision is made
- Jamie Morton of the New Zealand Herald