Fuel oil washed up on beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island as the Liberian-flagged ship MV Rena hit the Astrolabe Reef last Wednesday.

The 47,230-tonne vessel is stranded on the reef 12 nautical miles (22 km) off Tauranga and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil has escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades, Reuters reports.

About 70 containers are said to have fallen from the ship amid heavy seas on Monday night.

The oil spill from the stricken container ship has been fouling beaches and many dead seabirds lie on the shore amid thick fuel oil while environment conservation officials and volunteers try to contain the damage.

According to Maritime New Zealand, the captain of the Rena appeared in the Tauranga District Court on Tuesday and is reportedly remanded on bail.

Check out some of the latest pictures of the disaster from New Zealand oil spill below: