Bloomberg News

Stricken Container Ship Rena Splits in Two Off New Zealand Coast

January 07, 2012

Jan. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Rena, the 236-meter container ship stranded on a New Zealand reef since October, split into two after stormy weather, spilling cargo and debris into the water.

Both sections of the ship are still on the reef, about 30 meters (98 feet) apart, with weather conditions remaining difficult, Bruce Fraser, a spokesman for Maritime New Zealand, said by phone today. While most of the Rena’s fuel has been removed, more than 800 containers and some oil were still on board before the vessel broke up, he said.

“The bow section is still firmly grounded,” Fraser said. “The stern section looks like it’s still on the reef but with some movement. It hasn’t come completely free.”

The Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef on Oct. 5 near Tauranga, 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Auckland. As much as 350 tons of oil may have leaked from the vessel since the grounding, according to Maritime New Zealand. That makes it the worst oil spill that the nation has experienced.

The Liberian-flagged ship, owned by Athens-based Costamare Shipping Co., was carrying 2,171 containers and about 1,700 metric tons of fuel oil when it struck the reef, according to Maritime New Zealand.

The Rena was hit by six-meter swells overnight and a three- nautical-mile exclusion zone around the vessel may be extended because of the risk caused by drifting containers, Fraser said.

Hazardous Cargo

The cargo included four containers of ferrosilicon, a solid substance that can be hazardous when in contact with water and can emit hydrogen, the agency said.

The Rena’s master and the second officer in charge of the navigational watch have been charged under New Zealand’s Maritime Act for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk, the maritime agency said in a statement on Oct. 13.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of NZ$10,000 ($7,800) or 12 months’ imprisonment, it said at the time.

A tanker moored alongside the Rena took off 1,000 tons of oil since the grounding after leaking fuel blackened beaches in the area and killed seabirds.

--Editor: Paul Tighe, Jim McDonald

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Fenner in Melbourne at rfenner@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net


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