A large cargo vessel that has run around on a reef near the coast of New Zealand is leaking oil, raising fears about the safety of wildlife in the region.
BBC reported that the 47,000-tonne ship, called the Rena, is trapped on the Astrolabe Reef near Tauranga Harbor.
Maritime New Zealand (MNZ), the government entity which is responsible for protecting the maritime environment within New Zealand, said the leakage is believed to be coming from damaged pipes rather than from fuel tanks.
However, MNZ has warned that a dispersant applied to the oil slick has proved to be ineffective.
Rob Service of MNZ said that “a significant oil slick remained” although the amount of oil that has leaked into the waters in unknown.
We are not aware of any actual breaches in the fuel tanks. However, because of the extensive damage to the vessel, it is difficult to determine accurately what is the scale and scope of the damage, he said.
MNZ also stated that: “Other dispersant options were being considered, but the response team was also preparing for an on-water recovery operation, which will see oil being scooped off the water by teams on vessels using specialist equipment.”
Service also said that: “Extra equipment and people will be arriving overnight and tomorrow to run a recovery operation. We must also prepare for a potential shoreline clean-up.”
He added: “We will have shoreline assessment teams on Papamoa Beach tomorrow, doing pre-clean surveys, which means identifying vulnerable areas and assessing clean up options. There will also be wildlife teams on the shores of Motiti Island and Maketu Peninsula, identifying any affected wildlife.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand officials have trying to figure out how to dislodge the trapped vessel from the reef.
“Their [salvage team] priority at this stage is to remove the fuel from the vessel to prevent it causing further damage,” Service said.
“We are aware this situation is causing concern, particularly for Bay of Plenty residents. The situation is being managed in accordance with the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan and international best practice. Our professional and expert MNZ team is being further supported by international advisors with extensive experience in oil spill response.”
Other reports claim that four dead seabirds have been found in the oil slick, which is estimated to extend about 3 miles from the ship’s location.
According to New Zealand's Department of Conservation, the Astrolabe Reef was replete with sponges, anemones, seals and gamefish such as marlin.
While the 25 crewmembers on board the ship are safe, New Zealand Transport Minister Steven Joyce warned that the vessel could break apart due to its “precarious” position on the reef.