Salvors: What Happens To Rena’s Containers


Bad weather has meant there have been no container removal operations on the stricken vessel Rena since November 29. The total number of containers removed is 167.

There were 1,368 containers on board when Rena ran aground and 86 containers are believed to have washed overboard on October 11.

This leaves 1,115 containers remaining on board the wreck. There is hope removal operations may resume tomorrow.

The salvage comnpany Svitzer says it will not take security over any items in these nine containers that have been declared as holding personal effects and belongings. Such items include household furniture, appliances and vehicles.

This means that owners of personal property on the Rena not destroyed or lost should get their belongings back, regardless of whether or not they are insured. There has never been an intention to hold security over such personal items.

In a statement tonight it says it’s a standard and long-held practice for maritime salvors to ask insurers of stricken vessels for a guarantee over a percentage of property on board, as a means to ensure that there will be payment for salvage work undertaken. Such salvage work is costly and protracted, and can present extreme commercial risks unless payment safeguards are in place.

Given the difficult nature of the Rena operation and the lack of clarity on how long it may take and how much it may cost, Svitzer says it can confirm that the percentage safeguard is higher compared to some other salvage operations, but not out of proportion to other salvage operations.

The guarantee structure is a standard industry arrangement between Svitzer Salvage and the insurers of the Rena and her cargo. The percentage is indicative and precautionary and does not represent the actual payment to Svitzer Salvage. The payment to Svitzer Salvage will not be known until the operation has concluded. The guarantees being arranged now are paid to the vessels insurers, who will ultimately pay Svitzer Salvage when the salvage costs are known.

In recent days a general notification was distributed to all parties with cargo on the Rena, giving broad and indicative advice about cargo security arrangements. This was standard communication sent by default.

The Charterer of the Rena - Mediterranean Shipping Company - has only informed Svitzer in recent days about how many containers with personal effects are on the Rena. According to MSC, there are only nine such containers on board.

Owners of personal property on the Rena should still liaise with their insurers to be clear of their circumstances, and the Rena Charterer, Mediterranean Shipping Company, which is ultimately responsible for the Rena grounding and associated salvage costs. Mediterranean Shipping Company is also responsible for handing personal effects back to their owners.

MNZ Salvage Unit Manager Arthur Jobard says salvors have focused on work on board Rena, and have installed patches in the corridors of the wreck. This will enhance buoyancy.

While Rena remains in what’s described as “a very fragile state”, officials insist there have been no significant changes reported in its condition this week.

A crane barge Smit Borneo arrived this week which has a much greater reach and capacity than the Sea Tow 60, which was being used. This will enable salvors to remove containers currently out of reach – when weather permits.

The Sea Tow 60 astern of Rena | MNZ

Arthur Jobard emphasises that the weather will continue to play a huge part in this operation. Smit Borneo will be affected by swells and wind in the same way the Sea Tow 60 was. The Smit Borneo provides accommodation for the salvage teams, removing the need for time consuming and weather dependent helicopter transport to and from Mount Maunganui.

Teams from container recovery specialists Braemar Howells are continuing to remove debris from around the Bay of Plenty, including from Motītī, White, and Whale islands. This includes a significant amount of plastic and timber.

Sonar teams have been scouring the sea bed for container debris. They have not found anything this week, but have made good progress, covering a large area.

MNZ National On Scene Commander Mick Courtnell said the oil spill response team was continuing to monitor the sheen around Rena.

This has resulted in new light oiling of the coastline, primarily between Papamoa and Mount Maunganui, which is being targeted by oil spill response teams.

“We have seen a little more oil leak from Rena with the variable winds and high swells. This has resulted in some sticky tar balls coming ashore, and we have had a number of reports from members of the public.“We appreciate this is frustrating for people, particularly with summer almost upon us.

“Unfortunately, there is still a reasonably significant amount of oil on the wreck, out of reach of salvors. There is also still residual oil in the water, some of which is floating below the surface, and in the sand. This oil gets moved around with changes in the weather.

“Our teams will continue to clean and re-clean these beaches as long as we need to.”

About 30 little blue penguins are being released at Mount Maunganui as part of the continuing staged release programme. There are 199 little blue penguins and 17 dotterels still being cared for at the oiled wildlife facility.

Weekend weather prospects: Friday: North-east 15 knots developing. Mainly fine. A few afternoon showers possible.
Saturday: North-east 15 knots. Mainly fine. A few afternoon showers possible.
Swell forecast to midnight Sunday:
North-east 1 metre, easing to half a metre Thursday.





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