Oil slick ship ran aground as captain ‘cut corner’

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ENVIRONMENTAL THREAT. Aerial view of the cargo ship "Rena" aground on the Astrolabe Reef near New Zealand's Tauranga Harbour. Barges began scooping up an oil slick on New Zealand's pristine Bay of Plenty on Oct. 9, 2011 as salvage crew prepared for the delicate task of pumping fuel from a crippled container ship stuck on a reef. AFP FILE PHOTO

TAURANGA – The vessel at the center of New Zealand’s worst maritime pollution disaster ran aground because the captain was taking a short cut, the New Zealand government alleged Saturday.

The accusation was made as salvage crews prepared to pump oil from the stricken cargo ship Rena, which ran aground last week.

Anger is mounting in New Zealand over the fuel leak, with popular beaches on the North Island’s east coast coated in oil and off-limits to the public, and more than 1,000 dead and oil-soaked birds recovered.

There were indications Saturday the leak has been stemmed, but the ship’s agent has said the six Filipino crewmembers who are still in New Zealand are being kept at an undisclosed location amid fears for their safety.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said it appeared the Rena hit a reef off the resort area of Tauranga when the vessel was trying to get to port quickly.

“I can’t confirm that. But it appears from the charts that they were in a rush to get to port, went full bore, cut the corner, and hit the reef,” Smith told TV3’s The Nation programme.

The ship’s captain and the officer on navigational watch when the ship ran aground have already been charged with operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

Meanwhile, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) salvage head Bruce Anderson said divers working around the ship reported it was not as stable as earlier believed although observation flights saw no fresh oil leaks on Saturday.

“Divers have indicated the stern is in a precarious situation as a portion of the vessel is still floating in deeper water, while the front of the vessel is firmly grounded on the reef,” Anderson said.

Salvage crews working on board were expected to start pumping oil to a nearby tanker on Sunday.

It is believed there are still 1,346 tons of oil on board the Rena while about 330 tons have leaked into the ocean in an ecologically sensitive area teeming with wildlife, with 88 containers also falling into the water.

Matthew Watson from the salvage company Svitzer told Radio New Zealand a team on a fuel pumping barge half a nautical mile away had been testing equipment to remove the remaining oil.

Their main difficulty was finding a way to heat the fuel, which has cooled to a dense consistency and the ship’s engines no longer have the power to warm it, he said.

On shore, nearly 1,000 dead birds have been recovered and a wildlife facility is caring for 110 injured birds as a volunteer army of 2,000 people were on their hands and knees meticulously cleaning beaches.

“You can’t get machinery in here, for starters. So you’ve got to get people down here on their hands and knees to pick it up. Otherwise no one else is going to do it,” said Wayne Sayers on Papamoa beach.

Team leader David Eddy added: “Initially it was just on the surface, but now we’re going a lot deeper. A couple inches deeper. We’ve found some large clumps of it.”

Compared with some of the world’s worst oil spills, the disaster remains small – the Exxon Valdez which ran aground in 1989 in Alaska dumped 37,000 tons of oil into Prince William Sound.

But it is significant because of the pristine nature of New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, which contains marine reserves and wetlands and teems with wildlife including whales, dolphins, penguins, seals and rare sea birds.

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  • Anonymous

    Filipinos are once again famous, rather infamous

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PLXUSLBINX3AKU3F3XH5IN6EMM Karen

      “There were indications Saturday the leak has been stemmed, but the ship’s agent has said the six Filipino crew members who are still in New Zealand are being kept at an undisclosed location amid fears for their safety.”
      Read it well, Filipinos are only crew members and not captain. It is the captain’s fault for taking shortcut and crew members just follows. Filipinos are mentioned in this news because Inquirer is Philippine local news. You certainly irks me and other Filipinos for that comment. Next time please read well and think before you post.

      • Anonymous

        Read this article,

        ASIA PACIFIC NEWS

        Filipino captain charged in New Zealand sea pollution disaster
        Posted: 12 October 2011 0504 hrs  Photos1 of 1Volunteers collect the initial oil coming onto the Mount Maunganui shore in Tauranga, New Zealand. (Photo by Bradley Ambrose/Getty Images)   5  TAURANGA, New Zealand: The Filipino captain of a ship stuck on a New Zealand reef was arrested and charged on Wednesday as up to 70 containers fell into rough seas and a black tide of oil washed up on beaches.Mauro Balomanga appeared in a Tauranga city court amid a heavy police presence charged with operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk as New Zealand grapples with its worst maritime pollution disaster.Balomanga was bailed to reappear on October 19 with the court ordering media not to publish pictures showing his face after his lawyer expressed fears that “the public may take matters into their own hands” with anger running high.According to local reports, Balomanga had captained the ship only since March. The charge carries a maximum penalty of NZ$10,000 ($7,800), or 12 months in jail.Up to 300 tonnes of heavy fuel has leaked into the environmentally sensitive Bay of Plenty since the Liberian-flagged Rena hit the Astrolabe Reef, 22 kilometres off the North Island coast, last Wednesday.

  • Anonymous

    As usual, no matter where they go and work, too bad for this Filipino ship captain. He is an undisciplined one, not worthy to be a captain. better for this guy to be a captain of a banca only.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VDMUJ6NKKCLWRMVMJRLJFI633I Rene V

    Hiniya niya ang sarili niya, ang propesyon niya at ang kanyang pinaggalingan. For a captain of a ship, it is always good to be prudent and safe. You don’t find too many 747 pilots doing loops and supersonic fly by’s, do you?

  • brendonn lopez

    So it is always the
    Captain!

     

    Let me share
    something ladies and gentlemen. When the Captain joins a ship, it is mandatory
    for him to make his “standing order” and make all officers read, understand,
    sign and to comply with the best of their abilities. This standing order is a set
    of combined procedures and guidelines from the rules and regulations adopted and
    amended since the time of Titanic, Scandinavian Star and Exxon Valdez. In
    addition to that, everyday and every night, the Captain goes up to the bridge
    and lay out his “night orders” clearly to the officers. The night orders is
    similar to the standing order but tailor-made to the present and anticipated
    situation that affects the safety of the vessel, its cargo and the environment
    in relation to its intended voyage as well. These two Captain’s order already
    contains the most prudent and safest action ever evaluated since the time of
    Titanic. Nowadays, avoiding to cut corners is generic to all vessel’s quality
    and safety management systems. When the Captain completed his night orders, he
    will say good night and he goes to bed at around 2200 – 2300Hrs but is always
    ready to be called in any event especially when the officer on watch is in
    doubt.

     

    In the case of Rena,
    the grounding happened on the 5th of October at 0220Hrs LT. The duty
    officer for this is the 2nd Mate or 2nd Officer. Together
    with the 2nd Officer is an Able Bodied seaman who is also familiar
    with watchman duties. Let me describe a ship with feelings, even when the
    officers are sleeping, the ship sounds an alarm before things are developing
    into dangerous situation. These are technical safety parameters and just by
    technical reasons, we can come up to several hundred after the investigation of
    Rena.

     

    It is a sad story for
    Rena but let’s wait and see after investigation. Of course all the blame to the
    Captain and he shall take responsibility even to the things he did not actually
    do.

     

    Greetings from
    Caribbean!

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