WELLINGTON - Salvage teams raced on Monday to pump oil from a stricken container ship off the New Zealand coast ahead of bad weather which could split the vessel into two pieces spewing more oil onto local beaches.
The Liberian-flagged Rena has been stuck for 12 days on a reef 14 miles (22 km) off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, having already spilled about 350 tonnes of heavy toxic fuel and some of its hundreds of containers into the sea.The authorities on the ship said pumping of oil from the 236-meter (775-foot) ship resumed on Sunday night and more than 20 tonnes of the oil, as thick as peanut butter, has been pumped through holes cut in the side of the ship to a nearby barge. Salvage teams said they were making slow progress as they cope with toxic fumes, the thickness of the oil, and the fragile state of the ship, which is pivoting around on the reef.
"That ship is very, very sick. She is fractured, she is broken, she is on her knees," Matt Watson of the Svitzer salvage company told Radio New Zealand. He said the ship is just holding together in the current favorable conditions, but forecast bad weather later in the day could spell further environmental disaster.