Maritime New Zealand last night said that some dangerous goods were aboard the 236m cargo vessel MV Rena, which prompted an emergency response after it struck Astrolabe Reef, north of Motiti Island, about 2.20am yesterday.
The Liberia-flagged vessel, which was last night on a 10-degree list but sitting stable on the reef, is carrying 1700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and about 2100 containers of varied products.
The content of the cargo was not known, although a manifest had been provided for review, Maritime NZ spokesman James Sygrove said last night.
“We understand, however, that there are some dangerous goods being carried – we are working to establish exactly what they are and how any risks can be managed.”
An oil sheen in the water yesterday morning was put down to a hydraulic leak that was expected to disperse easily and not pose environmental risks.
Several specialist groups, including the maritime incident response team, wildlife experts and oil spill specialists the national response team have responded to the incident.
Astrolabe Reef is a popular spot for fishing and scuba diving, with drop-offs of nearly 40m. There is an abundance of marine and bird life including petrels, little blue penguins and a seal colony.
However, none was considered to be affected at thsi stage, Maritime New Zealand said.
Salvage – to be undertaken by the vessel’s owners – was expected to take “some time” and salvage advisers were due in Mt Maunganui this morning.
It remains unclear how the vessel hit the reef, and two separate investigations were under way. Last night, the vessel’s 23 crew remained on board as pumps extracted water from two flooded cargo holds.
While several breaches had been found in the hull, the vessel’s fuel tanks were not damaged and its port side tanks were being transferred to its starboard side as a precaution.
Boaties were being asked to keep well away from the vessel – and even from the 1km exclusion zone established around it – amid concerns over safety and disruption to response efforts.
Records show that in August, the MV Rena was detained for a day in Fremantle, Western Australia, by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority after “serious deficiencies” were found.
The authority’s report found the vessel had “not been maintained between surveys”, the “hatchway cover securing arrangements defective” and cargo was not stowed and secured as stipulated in the cargo securing manual.
But Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns said the port had had no previous problems with the ship. Yeah that is right. No problems right up until the time it hit the reef.