Nearly all containers have been removed from the stern of the Rena as seen in this photo taken November 23. Photo: Mariitme New Zealand

Maritime New Zealand said today it will conduct an investigation into 21 containers containing dangerous goods on board the stricken M/V Rena that were not originally declared by shippers on the ships manifest.  The investigation was launched after MNZ was advised Tuesday by insurers representing Rena’s charterers of the 21 containers, in addition to the just 11 containers containing dangerous goods known to be on board.  While the material in the containers presents a low risk to the environment and salvors in its current state, officials are left wondering why the it has taken so long to receive such information.

“Immediately after the grounding of the Rena on 5 October, as Director of MNZ, I requested information about all dangerous goods on board the ship from MSC as declared by the shippers, However, for reasons still unknown, the contents of these 21 containers were not declared as dangerous goods in the original manifest provided to MNZ and as required under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code,” said Director of MNZ, Catherine Taylor.

The ships manifest shows the product as “Cover Bath Material” and “Pure Tapped Bath Material”, a by-product of the aluminium smelting process, which is considered low risk unless ingested or inhaled directly in its dry powdered form. MSC also advises this material is known as cryolite.

“Since learning of this new information on Tuesday (22 November), MNZ has spent the last few days working extensively with various scientific, environmental and health experts to accurately assess the risk posed by cryolite to the marine environment and to people,” Ms Taylor said. “We have also been given a strong assurance by MSC that there are no other potentially dangerous goods on board that have not been declared.”

According to MNZ, twenty of the newly discovered dangerous goods containers are located in Rena’s hold 3, which suffered considerable damage in the vessels grounding.

“While this late notification is frustrating, it’s simply another issue Rena has thrown at us that we have to get on and deal with. It’s the typical nature of salvage operations that these sorts of issues will come up, and our plans remain flexible enough to respond to them as they occur,” Ms Taylor said.

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