New Zealand’s oil spill response agency, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ), say that 350 tones of oil have escaped from Rena – a stranded cargo ship – which hit the ground near port of Tauranga last week.
MNZ stated that the ship has sustained “some damage from current movement and there is a significant amount of oil leaking from the vessel.”
When the vessel,which is operated by the Mediterranean Shipping Co., became stranded, it was headed for the Port of Tauranga to load cargo
Birds and penguins have been sighted covered in oil and there are fears the ship could break up in gale-force winds, predicted to hit Monday.
Authorities have posted bright yellow notices on beaches telling bathers to stay away and not to eat seafood.
Maritime New Zealand said about 20 to 30 tonnes of oil spilled into the Bay of Plenty and has formed a five-kilometre-long slick. Planes and helicopters have been spraying chemicals on the slick in a bid to break the slick up. The New Zealand navy has sent four ships to help break up the oil, but so far, it hasn’t helped much.
In an update late Sunday, the agency said that a barge, the Awanuia, had pulled up alongside the Rena and was to begin pumping fuel from the stricken ship. This operation is expected to last at least two days, however it the bad weather could cause a delay.
Breck Gartrill, head of the New Zealand Wildlife Health Centre, said the oil is killing penguins and seabirds.
“From tip to toe they are covered in black sticky gunk, matting up all their feathers, right down to the skin. They’ve ingested it and they are starting to get anemic, which is part of the toxic effect of the oil,” he said.
A rehabilitation centre has been set up in Tauranga for animals that came in contact with oil.