(Updates with vessel re-boarding in second paragraph, owner’s comment in fifth, six.)
Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Salvage efforts on a stranded container ship off the northeastern coast of New Zealand have entered a “critical” phase as poor weather conditions prevent officials from pumping oil off the vessel.
A salvage team re-boarded the vessel this afternoon as strong winds and rough seas hampered oil recovery, Maritime New Zealand said in a statement. About 90 metric tons of oil was pumped off the ship before operations were halted Oct. 17.
“We’re in a critical place during the next 24 hours due to the weather,” Andrew Berry, head of the agency’s salvage unit, said in a statement last night. “We have one tug still connected to the stern of Rena ready to respond should the ship break up, with two other tugs on standby.”
Rena, the Athens-based Costamare Shipping Co.’s vessel, is “in a dynamic situation” and a range of response plans were in place should the ship rapidly deteriorate, Berry said. Cracks appeared in the hull last week, raising concern the ship may break apart more than a week after it ran aground near Tauranga, 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Auckland.
Costamare is taking the accident with “the utmost seriousness”, according to a statement from the ship’s owners today. The company was working with insurers, contractors and other parties to minimize the effects of pollution, it said.
“While it would be premature for us to say anything further while the salvage operation is on-going, Costamare will be there to do the right thing, as the situation becomes clearer,” the company said.
As many as 1,290 birds have been found dead following the accident and there are 269 animals being cared for at a wildlife facility, Maritime New Zealand said.
The Rena was carrying 1,368 containers and about 1,700 metric tons of fuel oil, according to maritime officials. As many as 350 tons of oil may have spilled from the vessel.
The cargo on the 32-year-old, Liberian-flagged ship includes four containers of ferrosilicon, a solid substance that can be hazardous when in contact with water and can emit hydrogen, according to the agency.
As many as 88 containers have fallen from the ship and almost half of them are empty, it said on Oct. 15.
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