The wreck of the MV Rena on Astrolabe Reef no longer poses a hazard to navigation nearly four and a half years after the containership ran aground resulting in New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster.
The news comes as Director of Maritime NZ withdrew two statutory notices that declared the wreck a hazard to navigation (under section 100A of the Maritime Transport Act) and a hazardous ship (under s248), both issued in wake of the ship’s grounding on October 5, 2011.
The notices required the owners of the vessel to undertake work to address the navigational hazard and discharge of harmful substances, and inform Maritime NZ of progress being made.
Maritime NZ Director Keith Manch said salvage and clean-up work undertaken since the grounding meant there was now no proper basis for the notices under the Act.
“Significant effort has gone into salvage and safe removal of harmful substances,” he says. “While some oil remains trapped in the wreckage of the vessel, most of the harmful substances contained within the ship have been discharged into the sea and have either been removed or have been, and will continue to be, monitored under the plan provided for under the resource consent.”
In terms of navigational safety, Manch noted that more than 22,000 tonnes of debris had been removed from the seabed.
“The information and evidence available to me indicates that all reasonable efforts have been made to remove entanglement hazards and wreckage, where possible. I have concluded that the wreck and remaining debris on the sea floor no longer constitute a hazard to navigation.”
Manch said the lifting of the statutory notices represented a significant milestone in the response to the grounding.
“Maritime NZ has maintained a presence in Tauranga overseeing the work undertaken by, and on behalf of, the owners since the grounding and wishes to thank all those involved for the efforts that have been put in,” he said.
In February, MV Rena’s owners, Diana Shipping, won a ruling allowing them to abandon what remains of the shipwreck, but the company will need to pay for ongoing costs under a strict court order.
A final report into the grounding released in December 2014 found that it was the failure of the master and crew to follow proper voyage planning, navigation and watchkeeping practices and the ship manager’s insufficient oversight of vessel’s safety management system that led to the grounding.