Rena Salvage Allowed ‘Temporary Pause’

MV Rena after splitting in two in January 2012. Image: Maritime New Zealand
The MV Rena after splitting in two in January 2012. Image: Maritime New Zealand

Authorities in New Zealand have granted a “temporary pause” in the salvage of the MV Rena shipwreck on Astrolabe Reef pending a decision over the future of the wreckage and cleanup.

The Rena’s owners, Daina Shipping, have lodged a resource consent application under New Zealand’s Resource Management Act seeking permission abandon sections of the wreck and associated debris in place on the reef.

The Director of Maritime NZ decided to allow the temporary pause at the request of Rena’s owners pending resolution of the application, which is expected to be decided on by New Zealand’s top Environment Court.

“This will be a temporary measure to allow the owners to go through the resource consent application process,” the MNZ said in a statement. “Maritime NZ accepts that it is not reasonable to require further salvage work to be carried out, beyond what is required to reach the wreck state set out in the application, until resolution of that process.”

In sending the application to the Environmental Court, the local Bay of Plenty Regional Council recommended that the full removal of wreckage is not feasible or recommended, but requested that some considerations be met prior to the any approval, particularly concerning the removal copper contaminants from the reef and some other sections of the wreck.

The owners’ application states that the wreck will be left in an “as benign as practicable state”, and MNZ said that the pause will not take effect until the wreck reaches the state set out in the application.

The application is expected to be heard later this year.

The MV Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef in October 5, 2011 while carrying over 1,300 containers and 1,700 tons of heavy fuel oil, resulting in what has been called the worst maritime environmental disaster in the country’s history. The incident sparked a massive clean-up effort initially focussed on the recovery of containers, oil, and other contaminants, even as the ship continued to break-up in the months that followed. After that initial period, an exhaustive salvage effort to remove as much of the wreckage as possible, although a large debris field remains at the site.