Rena Oil Spill — Day Six

Early morning at Mount Maunganui, Mauao wrapped in sea flog. It doesn’t take long to find the stained sands and scattered particles of the oil spill black against the pale sands. People are standing and looking or scraping oil particles into buckets. The Maritime New Zealand call to register as a volunteer has been tried but people won’t wait for a phone call they are on the beach doing what they think is right. At least most of them are wearing gloves and collecting the oil stained sand into tidy sacks.

The call for training and working under supervision is understandable, but after talking with people I can see they will not wait to be asked to come and help, they will just do it. It might be good if Maritime NZ trained them on the spot because they will just keep on coming down to clean their beaches.

I have no intention of getting dirty but once you are there surrounded by the oil stained beach there is a compulsion to act. The official and the unofficial volunteers all work together and co-operate. People are making friends and grieving for their coast. People are angry and cynical about the four days of fine weather and now the predictable storm damage impacting on the Rena. “Let’s sue the Greek Government,” someone says, we all laugh.

The gloves and gumboots are essential, the work is endless and this is just the beginning. I talk to a woman and her twelve-year-old son who have driven down from Auckland to lend a hand. I talk to surfies, artists, and a Scottish film crew who are making seven documentaries on oil spills. They have seen this everywhere which is a frightening thought.

Some hours later and the sea fog thickens, the news has come that a Mayday call led to an evacuation of Rena. No one is surprised, people just keep scraping in the soft rain.

My oily gloved hand is shaken by people who are pleased to see me.

“An MP down here with us in our community, Good on the Greens for asking questions, it is really good to see you here”

Later on at the press conference the mood is very sober. Gareth arrives to carry on the Green work, Russel is coming tomorrow. I will be back.. The local Greens are a steady presence supporting us.

It is a community ready to work and I am glad to have been there on day six. But it’s also sad and terrible. What will tomorrow bring to this beach?

80 Comments Posted

  1. @Jackal 5:48 PM

    Kevin Hague has tweeted Maritime NZ has confirmed containers don’t necessarily contain what the manifest says.

    Goodo! More dodgy practices is all we need in this situation.

  2. Rena’s Inventory Request

    On Wednesday 12 October, I sent an email to Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) formally requesting under the Official Information Act 1982 a copy of the MV Rena’s inventory. I made my request because of the differing stories authorities had been telling us about what Rena is carrying…

  3. I said, “the link between environmental disasters such as this and our lifestyles”. We’ve built up a society and global economy that depends on large amounts of oil being extracted, refined and transported. Accidents happen, humans are only human. Of course this kind of event will happen. It’s unthinkable that we could or can avoid such disasters. But they will keep happening, no matter how angry we get at the easy targets for the spills, until we get angry at ourselves for continuing to insist on a lifestyle that has no future. Same for increasingly severe and frequent floods, storms, droughts, biodiversity loss, and so on. They can’t be avoided if we continue living as we are.

  4. What part of our lifestyle are you talking about? Ships have been sailing to and from New Zealand bringing goods to us from overseas, and exporting goods that we need to sell overseas to pay for what we import.

    And ships have been sinking or running aground since the first Maori migrations to New Zealand.

    Accidents happen related to our lifestyle from houses burning down, to car accidents, to aircraft crashes, to food poisoning, and of course epedemics related to our urban density living.

    What is this human experiment you refer to. Our very existence?

  5. Owen, whilst action should be taken against anyone whose dereliction of duty contributed to this disaster, I’m sorely disappointed that no-one has yet made the link between environmental disasters such as this and our lifestyles. In a way, we’re all to blame for this and should all shoulder the cost. I would hope (but have little expectation) that events such as this make us rethink our human experiment before much more damage is done.

  6. Getting the boxes off quickly was never an option.
    Takes more than 24 hours to get that many off, in port, with the ship upright and no jammed or damaged containers. It can take hours just to get one jammed container off, in port.

    The best option, as the weather abates, may be to corral all the ones that fall off so they can be towed ashore. With a 20 degree list the ones in the holds will probably have to be cut out.

    Looking at the timelines, for similar salvage operations, I expect it will take months.

  7. Looks like Gerrit can’t handle a bit of rotten fruit. I apologize for the insult frog.

    I realize that there are many difficulties in lifting the shipping containers off the vessel using helicopter’s. I was interested to know of the physics involved. Unfortunately without links to some of the assertions made here by people well known to be habitual liars (BJ excluded), I will conclude that we do not categorically know if it is achievable.

    Yes! Towing the shipping containers once they end up in the water seems to be the only option. Perhaps those undertaking that task should use a large aluminum pole to attach a grappling hook. People should not be in the water near those shipping containers.

    MNZ Misinformed on Corexit

    MNZ breached the manufacturers guidelines by spraying a large amount of Corexit close to shore, where it can have an adverse effect on inhabitants. They failed to check if the dispersant would be effective prior to application and have not adequately informed the public of the health risks from Corexit 9500…

  8. Jackal… they did somewhat earlier. You need to be able to haul 40 tons, less of course, if the container is empty. The most any pure copter can haul is around 20 tons… and the helicopter in question is Russian, not any anywhere near here.

    Then there are the experimental skyhooks. We don’t have any of them either. Those could lift the 40 tons involved.,%20Skyhook%20Team%20On%20Heavy-Lift%20Airship&channel=comm

    ..if they were actually out there and available.

    If the containers are supported by the water, they of course can be pulled by a lot LESS of a helicopter. Drag -em up the beach at high tide and then use a land based crane to pull them the rest of the way out… But it isn’t going to work easily.

    They had to get the oil off faster… they had to cut the containers away and lighten it and get it off the reef faster.. and the emergency was not met with an actual emergency response.

    The requirement that one jettison the lawyers, the accountants and the rest of the yammerheads and get the job done quickly was ignored because the reason to do it was Mother Nature, and she doesn’t have a lawyer.

    Admitting to a need to do something because the weather might change is anathema to those same people who don’t think it is important to do something because the climate might change… people who regard themselves as masters of the universe.

    This is a consequence of their attitude in the short run. Consider the consequences to the planet of that same negligence over the long run.

    That is what National cannot answer.

    Consider the consequence to NZ of a REAL major release of oil from a rupture of an exploratory rig caused by an Earthquake.

    That is what National cannot answer.

    …but I am very sure that helicopters will not by themselves, work. They don’t have the lift.

  9. Jackal,

    Maximum lift helicopter capacity 25 tonnes lifted vertically. Look it up yourself.

    Maximum capacity loaded 40 foot container POTENTIAL 40 tonne. Top stacked more then likely empty so weight about 4 tonne.

    Yes a militairy heavy lift copter could have taken off the top stack BUT where was one? None OPERATIONAL in New Zealand. Time frame to get say a SKYHOOK fire fighter copter from Australia? Three days?

    Then the very DANGEROUS task has to be carried out of removing cross braces and locking pins and fixing lifting straps from a container stack on a 11 degree list with a copter hoovering above.

    Safety regulations in the workplace would have made that task COMPLETELY untentable.

    Add to that mission that as soon as the cross braicing is removed the container stack becomes unstable, the work unvironment is even more hazardous for the people, six container high, releasing locking pins.

    You calling me a cock is music to my ears, means you are WAY WAY WAY out of your depth from a practical, safety, engineering, logistical, and operative stand point.

    You show even more ingnorance by having the manifest in your hot little hands but NOT the location of hazardous good containers on the ship.

    Where were they in the stack? You need the ships load chart (weight distribution reasons) for that. Carried on board ship not the port office.

    Were you not the one going around shouting emotively that the ship was carrying radiactive yellow matter?

    You know trying unsuccessfully to whip up a frenzy where there was none with scare tactics.

    You are the c*ck.

    By the way have you worked out the physics involved when a load under a copter swings from 11 degree to the vertical and pendulums 10 degrees the other way. What loading this places on the copter and the pilots ability to maintain flight control over a swinging load?

    As I said you are such a c*ck.

  10. @photonz1, Gerrit & insider

    I think you guys should be laying the guilt trip on your National masters, considering it was their decision not to have a dedicated response tug in New Zealand, they deregulated the shipping industry and blatantly lied that New Zealand could handle a large oil spill adequately. What do you have to say about those facts?

    I posed that a helicopter might be able to lift containers from the vessel, ensuring that undeclared hazardous substances did not end up creating a potentially bigger environmental disaster than the 1700 tonnes of oil.

    Gerrit, photonz1 and insider believe this proposal to be ludicrous, but have not presented much verified information to show that it can not be achieved. What is the maximum weight a helicopter can lift… please provide facts?

    Do the shipping containers that hold the hazardous materials weigh 40 tonnes? What verified information are you basing your assertions on?

    cocks! [frog: Let’s have the debate without the abuse. Even though this is at the lower end of the scale, it can rapidly degenerate and, as I see from Gerrit’s comment below, get returned with interest.]

  11. And it must be done by tomorrow, saturday by the latest, other wise you are just incompetent, because I’m pretty sure it could be done – i read it once in my Boy’s Book of Emergency Response

  12. Jackals says “You know that mothballed Russian chopper I mentioned…”

    You mean the one you mentioned that could help lift 40 tonne containers – except that it can only lift 4 tonnes and it doesn’t go.

    Why don’t you send that helpful infomation about that helicopter to the salvors?

    Perhaps if you found ten of them around the globe, refurbished them all, got them all checked and certified, then put all ten in the air together, syncronised they might combine to lift one 40 tonne container.

  13. photonz1

    Jackal – with your whole week of being a spectator you obviously think you know much more than people who have actually been on the ship and salvaging ships for decades.

    Being a spectator? You have no idea what I’ve been doing photonz1. BTW, I have not commented on the imported salvage team who I am sure are well trained and hopefully doing an exemplary job. All my comments have been directed at MNZ and National.

    Exactly the same thing has been said by by experts on radio this week.

    So you can’t actually tell us where those assertions originate from? Probably John Key’s spin doctors. You know that mothballed Russian chopper I mentioned… that will be your businesses if National get another term of running this country into the ground.

  14. fin says “but you can take them as fact if you like”

    Exactly the same thing has been said by by experts on radio this week.

    You think it’s all a big conspiracy by salvage experts and the media to protect MNZ and the govt?

  15. Photon, regarding the expert comments you quote above. Are those actual quotes from the experts or are they Stephen joyce’s quotes about what the contractors/experts said?
    I suspect your expert quotes are actually newspaper quotes of a National party politician, but you can take them as fact if you like

  16. Jackal – with your whole week of being a spectator you obviously think you know much more than people who have actually been on the ship and salvaging ships for decades.

    With all your expertise you should offer your services so you can tell them why they are stuffing up so badly.

    They’re obviously in desperate need of your services.

  17. As the slavors have said, it wouldn’t make any difference if tankers or barges had got there earlier, when the oil in the damaged tanks wasn’t in a state where it could be pumped.

    Slavors? Looks like you are spinning in overtime there photonz1. Firstly, the oil was able to be pumped because it was pumped around the Rena. Secondly there was a time constriction because the weather meant the recovery was halted, and only resumed a week after the initial grounding. I don’t give a damn what experts they trot out to make shit up… that is what happened and it is not good enough.

    Don’t let the facts get in the way of your spin there photonz1.

  18. From the Dominuion Post ” “A salvage adviser, Jonathan Walker from Singapore … says this has been one of the fastest responses he’s seen in terms of dealing with … [what] he describes as incredibly complex.”

    Another Australian expert said the reaction was “as fast as any he’s seen”.

    As the slavors have said, it wouldn’t make any difference if tankers or barges had got there earlier, when the oil in the damaged tanks wasn’t in a state where it could be pumped.

    Don’t let facts get in the way of your conspiracy-theory / wingefest though.

  19. photonz1

    Funny how you say the response is incredibly slow, but the people who have decades of experience in salvaging ships say it’s one of the fastest responses they’ve been involved in.

    The response is slow because we did not have the equipment or expertise here in New Zealand. National MP’s had previously assured us we could manage an oil spill. They said that to promote plans for deep sea oil drilling… effectively they lied.

    It appears that the response could have been done a lot faster and with more skill to avert a much larger disaster. If six days before a dedicated emergency response craft arrived is a fast recovery operation… god help us.

    +1 phil u @ 1:11 PM. If we had more Women in places of power, the world would be a better place.

  20. kerry..i think you need to be talking to tim selwyn…eh..?

    …having had a couple of awesome grandmothers..

    ..i have never been in any doubt of the strengths/worth of women…

    ..selwyn is a fucken fool…


  21. seems like grassroots needs a calculator and a new doctor. One drop of oil able to kill? how come bogans aren’t daily dropping dead from fuel siphoning and babies who eat tar off the road, or road workers and engine room crews who handle these or very similar products all the time. It just doesn’t pass the idiot test.

    300 Tonnes of corexit? NZ’s whole stockpile is only about 30 tonnes, and all they’ve done is do some limited spraying.

    How do people expect to be taken seriously when the mindlessly churn out or repeat this rubbish?

    @ Kerry

    Do you think that the ship wasn’t broken on Friday may have influenced decision making? That the focus was getting her clear not clearing her out?

  22. “but the people who have decades of experience in salvaging ships say it’s one of the fastest responses they’ve been involved in”. Says who??

    This person, who has read hundreds of marine accident reports, and has developed response plans for ships, says bullshit.

    The ship was not broken on Friday.

    Photo. Who takes the NACT line on everything, talking about political point scoring 🙂

  23. kerry says “Photo. It takes less than half an hour to get power on a ship.”

    Er – this ship is not sitting at port. It’s on a reef, half broken, and all the oil is cold and hard.

    Salvors reported that they got people back on the Rena, it would take 1 1/2 days before they could get systems running and oil heated before they start pumping oil off again.

    Perhaps you should ring them up and tell how they could do that in 1 hour instead of 36.

    Kerry says “The ships systems were working after the grounding. The forward tanks only would have been affected by the initial damage.”

    So the ones that needed pumping to the rear tanks were the ones with damaged systems.

    Funny how you say the response is incredibly slow, but the people who have decades of experience in salvaging ships say it’s one of the fastest responses they’ve been involved in.

    The sad thing is seeing public and polititians rubbing their hands with glee over the chance to score political points.

  24. This comment over at tumeke on a post today called Images summing up the Governments response to Rena is worth re-posting:

    Grassroots said…

    JOHN KEY wants to know what we would do!!!???

    – Invest in a specialised quick response ship a year ago when advised.

    – Take oil off ship using local expertise while weather was fine (even though according to Director of Maritime NZ Catherine Taylor this would have created legal and insurance issues with ships owners). SO WHAT!?

    – Listen to local experts that wanted to help (including a member of the Deep Water Horizon response team and local ship captains with several decades of experience- these guys have attended local meetings and are pissed off!).

    – Acknowledge the full environmental disaster and acknowledge the similar environmental risks involved with deep sea oil drilling. Rena up to 1700 tonnes of oil (2 million litres) + toxic cargo + 300 tonnes of Corexit dispersant sprayed so far. Deep Water Horizon spill= 780 million litres of oil.

    – Stop the Environment Minister telling people on the news and at public meetings that Corexit oil dispersant is no more dangerous than dish washing liquid. A quick google search shows that this has been proven false by scientists and it’s banned in many countries. Stop using it and warn the public that the coastline is now covered in carcinogenic chemicals!

    – Inform public that if inhaled even a small particle of oil can be potentially fatal (advised by local Doctor). All local volunteers and public should be supplied with face masks when on beach.

    – Declare a state of emergency to ensure full access to all resources necessary to avoid worse case scenario.


  25. Phil/ While a lot of problems with shipping can be laid at the door of accountants, politicians and other ignoramuses, I doubt it has anything to do with being female.
    I’ve had the good fortune to have worked with extremely competent women at sea.

  26. I think Kerry has hinted at the root of any delays; how maritime incidents are dealt with is standardised internationally, and the appointing of a salver along with the Lloyds paperwork is the important first step, and that took time.

    Were our government to exercise the powers it has then that would conflict with the standard commercial arrangements, and thus there would be much wriggling later, and that wriggling would be entirely to the advantage of the insurers, not the New Zealand taxpayers.

    The Lloyds paperwork has a series of dates upon it, which I guess are revision dates of the form, and the first date is something like 1908.

  27. Heating takes hours not days. The crew were pumping fuel around the vessel two days later according to reports.

    The ships systems were working after the grounding. The forward tanks only would have been affected by the initial damage.

    Fuel systems are duplicated with at least some pumps working off emergency systems.

    Ships engines are always changed to diesel before an extended shut down.
    They do not work too well when full of cold tar.

    Bunker hoses and connections are standardised. Available in both Tauranga and Auckland.

    If it is pumpable it can be pumped into any enclosed barge or bladder or whatever. You can dig it out later.

    The ships systems were working after the grounding. The forward tanks only would have been affected by the damage.

    From what I hear the delay with the Awanuia was due to the salvors negotiating a commercial charter from the owners. Instead of the OSC/MNZ requisitioning the ship immediately, as they can legally. I doubt if the owners would have objected, as then anything which happened to the Awanuia would then be MNZ’s responsibility.

    Given the position of the ship (They are not designed to sit with one half aground) and the weather report every effort should have been made to get the oil off before the weather deteriorated.

    If it was not possible to do so within 4 days (Close to three of our major ports) then the whole thing is at the door of successive NZ Governments, and MNZ, who have paid insufficient attention to shipping safety and oil spill response.

    Suggestions made by us, years ago, about response capability have been ignored, obviously.

  28. (that tim selwyn at tumeke reckons ‘wimmin’ are to

    “…The director of Maritime New Zealand is…

    Catherine, a chartered accountant, became Director in December 2006.

    Catherine Taylor – an accountant, a female accountant.

    My contention, based on these examples, is this:

    Woman – especially academics – are focused on process, study, monitoring and reports rather than focused on action and results.

    They prefer the safe environment of planning and preparation rather than take the risk – as they see it – of taking action ahead of getting every i dotted and t crossed to cover their arse.

    They would rather devote their time to preparing training exercises – than go out in the field and doing something.

    They display little urgency and scant comprehension of what the task is.

    The bureaucratic environment of the government encourages and supports them in this wait-and-see/do-nothing management style –

    – as they are able to avoid scrutiny and accountability as a faceless bureaucrat – while the Minister takes the heat.

    In conclusion: they are unsuited to positions where immediate operational action must be undertaken because – as females – they are inherently risk-averse –

    – and as academics/desk-jockeys they are out of their depth in real-life situations…”




  29. Kerry,

    A lot of what I am hearing about the delays. From MNZ, and the pair of you are excuses, not reasons.

    Rubbish, we are GIVING reasons why the bunker fuel was not pumped. We are answering queries from the like of Toad/Jackal on why the fuel was not pumped.

    As an experienced seafarer yourself perhaps you could tell me how long it would take to heat the fuel and (presumming the heating equipment was operational – a question that has some validity as there are rumours it was not and that the main engines were running on diesel) to a viscosity to allow pumping up and over the side of a listing ship.

    Basically it is a huge ballsup but it is not helped by Russel Normans comments this morning regarding nothing was done earlier, boo ho bollocks to that politiking.

    A lot was being done.

    What we should concentrate on is a coordinated clean up. I see too many pictures of people with arms folded and tut tutting or worse, hand wringing in disbeleif.

    Lets get the clean up going, not led by the Labour leader dressed in a suit with a toy shovel but by a coordinated effort led by the Greens.

    Bet someone like Robert Guyton would have the people organised and motivated.

    So Russel, stop that tut tutting and hand wringing and bring some leadership to the clean up.

  30. The events in Christchurch and at the Astrolabe reef have generated quite different responses.

    The people around Tauranga seem to be blaming the government agencies rather than the operators and owners of the ship.
    Hardly any anger is directed at the officers who are already charged.

    In Christchurch, a much larger environmental disaster (unless humans are excluded from the environment), the people have been too trusting of Government.

    But the main difference is the different responses from outsider.

    From the first days after the earthquake, people and organisations, both local and from all around the world, offered support in human skills and money. And they still are – right up to Placido’s concert.

    There have been so such offers to assist the people affected in Tauranga from outside. There are no fund-raising campaigns or benefactors donations.

    I suspect the difference is that the population at large is well aware that the cause of the oil spill etc is not an “act of god or nature” but the result of human error and poor judgement etc.

    Consequently people feel little obligation to step in and help because it could reduce the claim on the people who set up the situation where a ship could aground on a reef you can see plainly on Google Earth.

    The maritime unions are placing all the blame on the NZ government. I am sure their statements will be presented as evidence in support of the Greek ship owners when it gets to Court.

  31. Kerry Thomas says “It does not take two days to heat fuel tanks.”

    A salvage expert interviewed two days ago said it would take a day or two under normal circumstances to heat oil before it could be pumped.

    However the Rena had damaged systems so this would take much longer from some of the tanks.

    Similarly they have said that even if they could start pumping again right now, it would take at least 1 1/2 days of getting the ship systems started up again BEFORE the first litre could be pumped.

  32. Insider and Gerrit.
    A lot of what I am hearing about the delays. From MNZ, and the pair of you are excuses, not reasons.

    They are doing all that is possible, now, though.

    Some of the ideas about booms, crane ships and getting containers off the ship are equally bollocks. May have been an option while the ship was upright in calm weather. No conventional crane ship could do it easily now.

    Containers may be a hazard to small boats, but they are not to ships.

    Don’t expect too much today. The wind has dropped to 12 knots, but the swell is still around 3 metres.
    Government is responsible for the lack of gear. All of them for the last 40 years.
    MNZ are responsible for pre- planning a swift response.

    Gerrit. It does not take two days to heat fuel tanks.

    The manifest is available from the port planners in the last port. No secret. No seriously hazardous DG’s.

    There are several different options for pumping from fuel tanks. Through the ships sludge or fuel transfer systems. Salvage pumps through the manholes or a bypass to other ships fuel pumps.

    Releasing twistlocks on containers (which are designed to release when the ship is upright) with a 25 degree list and getting a container spreader attached is going to be very difficult and dangerous. Discharging containers is not a quick option even with the right gear.

    Once oil is in the water with any wind or sea running the only option left is a clean up.

    Leaving the crew on board (Given the forecast) until the Navy and the crew risked serious injury, and hauling two traumatised sailors up in front of a court immediately was also harsh.

    Everyone is concerned about the oil. What about the people.

  33. What I think needs to happen:

    1. Close the port and redirect shipping elsewhere. The oil is now excessive and no ship can travel in and out without spreading it further. Shipping containers in the water are a hazard.

    2. Call a state of emergency for the Bay of Plenty area and mobilize more personnel and equipment.

    3. Close the beaches and keep the public away from the grounded shipping containers. Recall police from Auckland to enforce this.

    4. Issue residence in the effected area with breathing masks and a direct safety warning.

    5. Call in more tugs to locate and tow shipping containers to where they can be recovered.

    6. Don’t push the containers overboard. The recovery crew should clearly mark the containers carrying hazardous materials so that they are more easily identified and prioritized for recovery.

  34. Gerrit

    Nearest floating crane ship was in Australia, 5 days away.

    What is it called and have they sent it yet Gerrit? It’s now a week since authorities should have realized that they would most likely need to get some shipping containers out of the water… particularly the ones that contain hazardous chemicals.

    What you are saying is there is no plan to get any shipping containers out of the ocean… and they will remain a hazard to both the environment and boats.

    Is the Southern Reef not a crane ship Gerrit? That ship was in Tauranga port on the 9th.

    Port Tauranga offers to close, and the media reports that they don’t want to because of financial reasons? WTF!

    Ships at Rena Grounding

  35. BJ,

    Reminds of a time up in the islands where full 205 litre fuel drums were simply dropped over the side of a ship. It took a while but they all surfaced and small (and not so small) boys simply swam them ashore.

  36. Once they are in the water they aren’t going to swing and they aren’t going to need that much lift to keep them from sinking. They could then be dragged.


  37. Actually the Russians can do a bit more, maybe 20, but nobody I know can do a full 40 tons.

    Drop, if it is listing enough, is mostly a matter of getting the lock pins out of the way and pulling the bracing apart. The copters can pull sideways enough to get the things into the water. One does not wish to be anywhere near when they let go.

    Something involving explosive cutters perhaps and again, the helicopters to pull things apart, could be worked out. I recall saying that this was speculative as well as in hindsight? Not all the containers would be that heavy.

    Once it hit the reef, it could not end well.


  38. Just saw your reply BJ,

    How do you “drop” 40 tonne containers over the side without cranes? Who is climbing the stack to undo the cross bracing and lock pins?

    Nearest floating crane ship was in Australia, 5 days away.

  39. Jackal,

    There is no helicopter available to lift 40 tonne. The biggest (Chinook) can lift 10 tonne.

    But the answer is not far away

    Just to add to the impossibility of helilifting containers with current helicopters is the pendulum effect that the 11 degree list will induce in the load.

    Pick up a container and as soon as it clears it lowsided neighbour if will want to swing 11 degrees to the vertical.

    The resultant swing loading on the helicopter is manageable? Then the pilot has to counter the swing pendulum effect as the load occilates from port to starboard by quickly manouvaring (sp?)the helcopter over the load as it swings each cycle.

    Not a helicopter pilot but am sure not many would be game enough to try.

    Lets be realistic in what is achievable and work with what is available, not construct wishful thinking scenarios steeped in 1960’s Popular Mechanics fiction.

  40. ” Even if the oil transfer vessel, the Awanuia, had arrived prior to Sunday it would not have changed the time when the pumping could have started.”

    Insider, I commend you for bringing those quotations here.

    “Even if the oil transfer vessel, the Awanuia, had arrived prior to Sunday it would not have changed the time when the pumping could have started”

    It would not have changed the amount of time before the pumping could have started, it CERTAINLY would have changed the time when it could have started. That however, is not what happened and not what COULD have happened.

    Overall however, I take the point that it would be unlikely that the end result would have been much different given the logistics that actually were available at the time.

    More sensible in hindsight would have perhaps been to drop containers into the water and drag them (by helicopter) to points where they could be picked up or beached safely. Unloading the ship that way and possibly being able to get her off… where she would not have been pounded to pieces… EVEN if it meant that she sank. Overall I think that despite all the wishfulness and finger pointing, once the ship hit the reef that hard, the only available options and results were all quite bad.

    National is to be faulted, not so much for its response, but for its inviting trouble in the form of deep offshore drilling, “for the money”, in an earthquake zone, without consideration for what an oil release (which becomes highly probable given our seismic activity) would do to New Zealand.

    It is that lack of consideration that brands them incompetents… not the lack of effective response to this problem. They didn’t cause this one, and there was really not a much more effective response available… and that can only be discerned in hindsight and speculation.

    The brand however, sticks. They don’t count the risks. Not really. If there is money to be made.

  41. @ Gerrit, photonz1 & insider

    especially when they meAn that not only did these people all lie, but the vessel apparantly managed to disappear between about 1600 on Friday and 0200 on Saturday.

    And can you explain why a half day is missing from the tracking you link to (at the time it was said to be at Marsden Point)?

    Perhaps it just sat in the ocean for a while… did you think of that? There a few possibilities here:

    1. The Awanuia went the wrong way and did not unload at Marsdon as the GPS AIS tracking indicates and the Minister was misled or lied.

    2. The tracking is incorrect.

    Now I did not see you volunteer to climb a stack of 6 high containers on a 11 degree list to undo the cross bracing and locking pins.

    I seem to recall them securing those same shipping containers, which would have presumably involved checking those cross bracing and locking pins. You say that lifting a shipping container off a cargo ship with a helicopter is not achievable… I think it is.

    The thing here is that many industries pay a levy which is meant to go to fund an emergency response for situations just like this.

    What we need:

    1. Two dedicated emergency response ships, one for the South Island and one for the North. Placement would be dependent on a comprehensive research into where the main potential dangers are.

    2. An emergency response plan that can deal with many of the well-documented incidents that might eventuate.

    3. A dedicated system to coordinate that plan with the available equipment and resources to back it up. It appears that this is currently non-existent.

    The response from National to the Rena Disaster reminds me of this.

    I’m not a Green btw Gerrit… I’m a concerned citizen who thinks that the Green party shares many of my own values.

    Granted that the lifting of shipping containers off the Rena is currently not achievable for New Zealand, because we don’t have the equipment. Such an undertaking would be dangerous if it was.

    Update: Rena is still in one piece. More oil has washed up.

    @ SPC The Awanui arrived on the 8th 5:00 AM.

  42. No the question was not moot, and to say it was was inconsistent with the information you supplied.

    The question as to the usefulness of the inflatable barges was whether they could have taken oil off the ship before the tanker arrived.

    1 At what time was there the first possibility of removing oil from the ship?

    2. At what time did the tanker arrive and in position to do this?

  43. Jackal,

    I think there is a Mi-17 in New Zealand mothballed somewhere. Not sure of its lifting capacity though.

    MI 17 Helicopters have a lifting capacity of 4.5 tonne

    Well short of the expected weight (up to 40 tonne) of a fully loaded 40 foot container.

    You also have the need for a specialised pilot, navigator and load master. Where these available? Also a need for lifting equipment, Available?

    Now I did not see you volunteer to climb a stack of 6 high containers on a 11 degree list to undo the cross bracing and locking pins.

    Would that activity be considered a safe working environment?

    How safe is a mothballed MI 17 helicopter and what airworthy certificate would it fly with?

    I think it is high time the Greens stopped politiking this matter as eggs are on faces in regards what reaction should have and could have occurred.

  44. @spc

    No the question is, was the vessel capable of discharging the fuel under it’s own power and were there qualified people able to manage the equipment on the water? The answer to the former is apparently no. this is from an official govt q&a. Any other answer is moot.

    “The heavy oil tanks on the Rena are serviced by pipes in the duct keel which was extensively damaged when the ship hit the reef.  The time critical issue in getting the heavy oil off the ship was putting together the alternative pipe system to enable the tanks to be emptied.  A further priority was pumping oil out of the bow tanks that were damaged to the stern tanks.  An additional complication was intrusions within the tanks that made the job of getting the pumps in from the top difficult.  Even if the oil transfer vessel, the Awanuia, had arrived prior to Sunday it would not have changed the time when the pumping could have started.”

  45. If the 2 barges offered plus the 2 of MNZ were used that is about 20% of the total – the question remains was this amount there to be extracted from the back tanks at this stage (before the tanker arrived).

  46. @ Todd I prefer to believe the owners and mnz than your paranoid fantasies, especially when they meAn that not only did these people all lie, but the vessel apparantly managed to disappear between about 1600 on Friday and 0200 on Saturday. Or did the gps just not register for a few hours?

    its frightening that you really are that dumb.

  47. Jackal says “There is no question that it was deployed two days after the Rena ran aground on the 5th and headed the wrong way losing almost a whole day.”

    So why was it reported in various media as needing to unload at Marsden Point, sailing to Marden Point, unloading at Marsden Point, and sailing from Marsden Point back to Tauranga.

    And can you explain why a half day is missing from the tracking you link to (at the time it was said to be at Marsden Point)?

    Could it be that you’ve come up with a crazy conspiracy theory that it went the wrong way and had to do a u-turn, when in reality it unloaded at Marsden Point but some of the tracking has not showed up (which is why there’s a half day of tracking missing at the north end of it’s voyage)?

    Jackal says “@ Toad… I bet I can catch these RWNJ’s out lying more times than you?”

    The only lies you’re catching out is your own conspiracy theories.

  48. SPC asks “Was there oil ready to be taken from the back tanks by the weekend before the oil tanker was available?”

    The Awanui took three days to get to Marsden point, unload and sail to Tauranga. It only pumped about 10 tones on Sunday and Monday but the Rena was still pumping oil to the back tanks when they had to abandon ship and turn everything off.

    I think the claims from the inflatable barge guy may be a bit optimistic. The maximmum capacity of his inlfatable barges was about 5% of what the Rena was holding – so how much travelling was there for him to dump 20 loads of oil? (remembering that the Awanuia had to go all the way to Marsden Point to offload as there was nowhere in Auckland to do this)

  49. Gerrit

    I think there is a Mi-17 in New Zealand mothballed somewhere. Not sure of its lifting capacity though.


    I beleieve it was made available by owner ASAP and left Auckland on Friday but had to go via marsden point.

    As always what you believe insider has very little relevance to reality. The Awanuia arrived at Astrolab Reef on the Sat 8th. It left Auckland on the 7th and headed toward Marsdon Point, but turned back half way there at 2:16 with a draught of 5.3m.

    There is no question that it was deployed two days after the Rena ran aground on the 5th and headed the wrong way losing almost a whole day. Check it out.

    @ Toad… I bet I can catch these RWNJ’s out lying more times than you?

  50. gerrit and photonz – if the oil had been pumped to the back tanks

    1 it had been heated (heating was being done) and was becoming ready for removal from the back tanks

    2 inflatable barges could have been used here, just as the oil tanker was on the Monday for a brief time.

    Was there oil ready to be taken from the back tanks by the weekend before the oil tanker was available?

  51. Jackal says “I got the first response re OIA request for the Rena’s inventory today. Looks like the MNZ will drag its feet and charge me.”

    YEAH – they’re pretty quiet right now so they’ve got plenty of time to stop doing unimportant jobs and prepare freight lists for 1300 containers for Joe Public.

    If I were you I’d complain that they didn’t give your request a far higher priority over what they’re currently doing.

  52. Note that in the coal carrier grounding off Queensland last year it took six days for a bunker vessel to be on station, and that incident was considered an exemplarary oil spill response in a better resourced country. Maybe a wee bit of perspective instead of histrionics is called for

  53. @ toad I have no involvement with mnz -I just hate vindictive mindless stupidity, and I think your ignorance needs to be continually exposed. Your ad hominem diversion just exposes your shallowness on this issue.

    The awanuia was apparantly fully loaded when the incident happened. It needed to debunker so that it had capacity to do the job it was being asked to do. I beleieve it was made available by owner ASAP and left Auckland on Friday but had to go via marsden point. the world does not work on perfect information, it will have taken some time to take advice and Action – that’s the unavoidable nature of decisionmaking in a bureaucracy. You have the luxury of demanding everything with responsibility for nothing.

  54. toad – you criticise MNZ, when your solution was to use INFLATABLE barges right on top of the very reef that ripped a hole in a steel hull.

    It’s like “oil spill amateur hour” with all the rediculous ideas and criticisms.

    Myth 1 – Oil booms could have stopped the oil getting to shore. Wrong. Heavy oil has a similar specific gravity to water and only a very small percentage floats on the surface, so booms do nothing for 90% of the oil.

    Myth 2 – We should have pumped the oil out straight away. Impossible. The oil is held in a nearly solid state and has to be heated for 1-2 days before it can be pumped.

    Further, there was always going to be a problem getting oil hot enough to pump when the tank is ruptured and oil is mixing with cold seawater.

    The best that could be done was to heat the oil (1-2 days) at times when the ship did have power and crew, and pump as much as possible to the rear of the ship (taking another couple of days) where it could then be pumped across to another vessel (in deep water at the rear of the ship, rather at the middle or front where it would be on top of the reef), which leads to….

    Myth 3 That other vessels could simply pull alongside and pump the oil across from the front of the ship. Wrong – it’s sitting on top a reef.

    Myth 4 That we could commandeer tankers or barges that could go straight to the Rena to help. Wrong – Z energy (ex Shell) offered it 2-year old state-of-the-art fuel tanker Awanui, but first it had to sail up to Whangarei so it could unload, then it had to sail back to Tauranga – a process that took three days.

    Compounding matters was the list of the ship, and the risk of falling containers making it too dangerous for crew to work on deck or other vessels to be alongside.

    Yet here at amateur hour it’s simply a matter of going in and pumping the oil out, and trying to score political points by blaming people if this can’t be done.

  55. It appears that the SWIBER TORUNN ship has or will arrive at the Astrolab Reef shortly.

    Hopefully she and the Awanuia can get some more oil off. Weather seems to be improving a bit and I think the MV Rena is still in one piece for now. Pray they haven’t left it too late.

    Containers leaching who knows what into the ocean today was a terrible site. I got the first response re OIA request for the Rena’s inventory today. Looks like the MNZ will drag its feet and charge me. They appear to have the information requested though.

    This is no way to manage a disaster.

  56. The AHTS and other vessels are surveying the area to get an idea of where the containers and oil are.

    Shipping is being routed up to the North of normal tracks, clear of the area.

    Awanuia is on standby ready to go back when the weather moderates.

  57. @insider 10:25 PM

    Do you (as your blogname might suggest) work for or contract to MNZ perchance?

    You seem to be making every excuse possible for their inaction.

    6 October
    An aerial observation flight in the morning confirmed oil leakage
    MNZ Maritime Safety Inspector on board the ship confirmed that oil was leaking from the vessel.

    The precautionary response then should have been to immediately commandeer vessel(s) with the capacity to offload the oil, as section 305 of the Maritime Transport Act permits MNZ to do, and get such vessel(s) to the scene.

    Instead, they pissed around, and sent Naval vessels, a tug, and eventually the Awanuia which did have the capacity to offload the oil, but far too late because the weather was starting to pack up by the time it eventually arrived.

    Sorry, major fail by MNZ and Joyce as Minister responsible (and Key as the apologist).

    Stop trying to spin out of an oil slick, insider – it never works.

  58. @Gerrit 9:42 PM

    Saw a blue Honda Jazz on the motorway with TOAD 3 number plate. Not you by any chance? And if it was was type of cars are TOAD 1 and TOAD 2?

    Nope, not me. I haven’t owned a car for 6 years, but occasionally commandeer my wife’s one (she need one for work, I don’t) if required and available.

    And I’m no fan of personalised plates, although I did like the “QQQQ” one I saw a good number of years back, which I have learned has now been deregistered.

  59. @toad

    Reading this rubbish makes me wonder if you have paid any attention to what has been going on at all. Here is a little time line for you

    5 October
    2.20am ship grounds
    8am observation flight in air
    by 9am Response team activated and people heading to Tauranga and MNZ inspector on board ship
    10.45 MNZ inspector reports holes in vessel. Fuel pumped to safer tanks on ship. MPRS team activated in Auckland and equipment mobilised in Tauranga as precaution
    3.30pm MPRS incident control centre being established in Tauranga. National experts travelling to assist

    6 October
    An aerial observation flight in the morning confirmed oil leakage
    MNZ Maritime Safety Inspector on board the ship confirmed that oil was leaking from the vessel.
    The oil spill response team conducted an on-water assessment of the oil slick,
    The team conducted dispersant field tests to assess the potential effectiveness of a dispersant
    Supplies from the national oil spill response equipment stockpile arrived in Tauranga
    wildlife response launched
    Establishment of a bird cleaning and rehabilitation centre in Tauranga got underway, along with a forward base on Motiti Island.
    salvor appointed and the Director has issued the owner of the cargo vessel with two notices under section 248 of the Maritime Transport Act 1994.

    7 Oct
    aerial observation flight
    dispersant assessments show it not as effective as anticipated. Dispersant use resumed
    MNZ prepared for an on-water operation to collect oil spilled from damaged pipes – no sign that a large amount of oil was being released from the main tanks.
    Vessels and equipment being assembled to mount an on-water response to collect oil on the water
    A specialist oiled wildlife response centre was established by the NOWRT and teams of wildlife rescue staff were sent to Motiti Island.
    MNZ also prepared to launch a shoreline clean-up in the event that oil reached land.

    8 Oct
    observation flight confirmed oil appears to have stopped flowing from the Rena
    Dispersant application put on standby until any further thick patches of oil were identified.
    specialists from around New Zealand and Australia continued to join the response team which grew close to 200.
    The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) also joined the incident command centre. Four NZDF vessels were deployed with the Rotoiti, Taupo and the Manawanui arriving during the day and the Endeavour expected to arrive on Monday. An additional 500 NZDF personnel were put on standby.
    Specialist salvage equipment was deployed from around the country and Australia to support the salvage operation being undertaken by Svitzer.
    The Ports of Auckland tug the Waka Kume arrived in the morning to assist in the salvage, with the Awanuia fuel tanker arriving later.
    A draft salvage plan was prepared by Svitzer. MNZ and technical experts began reviewing the plan. Additional resources including specialist vessels, a helicopter and additional staff were also tasked by Svitzer.
    A total of 85 personnel in 14 teams were out on beaches looking for affected animals.
    The response team has received technical advice and support from the UK, Australia and Singapore. National and international offers of assistance and equipment have also been received as reciprocation to memorandums of understanding as well as New Zealand’s support in Australian spills and the Gulf of Mexico spill

    etc etc etc

    This info is all publicly available but you guys seem to enjoy wallowing in deliberate ignorance. By way of comparison, it took Australian authorities nearly 24 hours to get an inspector on board the coal ship stranded on the Great Barrier Reef last year.

  60. All those armchair admirals and logistical experts in pumping crude bunker fuel might like to consider;

    1, That the plant required to heat the bunker fuel, so as to achieve a pumping viscosity, on board the vessel might have been inoperative.

    2, That the power generators required to provide the electricity to power the heating equipment may not have been operational.

    3, That sufficient volume of uncontaminated diesel was on board to run the electricity generation sets.

    4, The crew had safe access to the engine room to run the heating and generating plant.

    5, The pumping equipment on board the ship was of sufficient capacity and power to lift the bunker fuel up and over the side (not mormally a prerequisite as it only has to pump from heating tank up to the main engines).

    6, The hose couplings of the receiving barge was the same type as the hoses/pipes on the vessel.

    7, That the crew were capable of physically handling and lashing the hoses on a listing vessel from the tanks over the side and onto the barges.

    8, The pumps on the barges were of sufficient capacity and power to suck and lift the bunker fuel from the depths of the ship and over the side. Refueling barges normally dont have to pump fuel very high.

    I totally agree that the lack of communications has been dreadful


    one has to question the scenarios presented by some commentators such as helicopters lifting 40 tonne containers ( I dont think there are helicopters anywhere short of the Russian or US militiary that have that sort of capacity with lifting strops and equipment plus trained crews) from a listing ship where it would require the placement of men (or women) on the container stack to remove the cross bracing and lock pins, were entirely feasable or practicable.

    One would need a skilled mountaineer to set safety ropes and reset them after every lift. Just not practicable or safe.

    PS Toad,

    Saw a blue Honda Jazz on the motorway with TOAD 3 number plate. Not you by any chance? And if it was was type of cars are TOAD 1 and TOAD 2?

  61. @photonz1 7:59 PM

    The ALREADY OWNED identical barges which were deemed as not the best solution

    So where that left us was with the inevitable major oil spill and the MV Rena now breaking up and the remaining oil likely to leak.

    The “do nothing” strategy has not worked.

    As for Maritime NZ, even David Farrar says:

    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.

  62. Toad says “Oh, come on. MNZ were Wednesday last week offered the services of two barges that could have got the heavy fuel oil off the Rena within 2 or 3 days while the weather was still good.

    They declined the offer, and led us to where we are now.”

    Yeah right.

    The ALREADY OWNED identical barges which were deemed as not the best solution, (probably becauzse 100 tonne INFLATABLE barges full of oil, sitting directly above the very reef that holed the Rena, has …er…a minor risk).

    But as you obviously know better than the experts on what should be done, perhaps you should put your oil spill experience and qualifications on a CV and give it to the worlds leading salvors, Svitzer – who are handling the salvage.

  63. I’m upset and angry.

    At the lack of communication and slow response. I would have liked to seen the fleece mop up option deployed immediately, to contain the first slick and subsequently, to protect estuaries and coastline.

    I have been aware of the fantastic properties of fleece and it’s potential for using in these kinds of tragedies, for some time.

    We have huge quantities of fleece in this country, as an alpaca breeder with fleece stored, for spinning, I would have been glad to sacrifice it and send it away, to mop up oil.

    We need to be better scouts and guides and be prepared. We are not and I am so very sad. We can do better than this.

  64. @insider 5:59 PM

    Oh, come on. MNZ were Wednesday last week offered the services of two barges that could have got the heavy fuel oil off the Rena within 2 or 3 days while the weather was still good.

    They declined the offer, and led us to where we are now.

  65. @ Toad

    The P of T doesn;t need MNZ guidance on how to run its port. Why are you using your presumption to needlessly and frankly ignorantly beat up MNZ? Did they eat your puppy?

  66. Unlikely with the present wind direction. Something to consider if the wind changes.

    Lots of activity in Tauranga today. Oil spill collection boats practicing. The AHTS in port has just left.

    Looks from the pictures of the ship, she is going to come off in two pieces.

  67. @Jackal 5:07 PM

    The Port of Tauranga have offered to shut down operations, but presumably have been given no guidance by maritime NZ re this.

    Port of Tauranga has said today it’s ready to shutdown operations if the containers which have spilled from the ship threaten incoming vessels.

    Another fail by Joyce and his incompetent maritime safety agency.

    Nek Minnit: A vessel headed to or from Tauranga hits a partially submerged container.

  68. I’m just wondering why the Tauranga port hasn’t been closed to everything but recovery and clean up vessels? There are multiple hazards in the water, the toxic oil is getting transferred around on at least ten large ships bows that have entered or left during the disaster and there are reports of collisions. What on earth is Maritime New Zealand doing?

    I wondered the same thing about the beaches, and now there are reports of people becoming physically ill from exposure. Why on earth isn’t there a person handing out large PVC gloves, face masks, protective clothing and eye protection, which can all be purchased for around $60 to everybody who wants to help clean up I don’t know.

    What I do know though is that I am damn angry about this. Not only at the incompetent seamanship and the unsafe ship, but also Maritime NZ for their stupid decision to use Corexit 9500 and a failure to ensure people are kept safe. The government should be coordinating the disaster relief. At the moment I don’t even know who is in charge?

  69. I’ve said it before.. I’ll say it again.. its all about Govt. cost cutting & protecting profits for the big corporates, with : N-Act Inc.

    Their minister for environment is more into making excuses for their lack of activity, rather than what efforts are really being made to protect our Whenua.

    How long before Key & Co. are back out promoting the ‘myth of Clean, Green & 100% pure.. Aotearoa/NZ ?” Should be 100% pure.. Greed & profiteering in Aotearoa/NZ!!
    Wake-Up People. Kia-ora

  70. Our shipping was given up to overseas ships in the 80′s for ideological reasons. The resulting effects on the balance of payments, employment, safety and the environment were, of course, not a consideration.

    Almost all our export and import cargo and much of our coastal cargo is now carried by overseas ships. Mostly registered in places like Panama or Liberia.

    Safety standards have dropped.
    MNZ was told not to make too much of a fuss about the standard of overseas ships, as that could be politically embarrassing. Not to mention, the few remaining, NZ ships also being forced to cut costs to compete. Both with overseas ships and subsidised rail and trucking.

    I suspect that the causes of the Rena grounding will prove to be a chain of unfortunate events, as most accidents are.

    Of more concern is the lack of planned capability to deal with what is a relatively minor oil spill. And the obvious lack of knowledge of the capability in NZ by MNZ and the Government.

    The almost total lack of concern for the crews safety, as everyone focused on oil, doesn’t say much for us as well.

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