A path 30kms wide and yet, he hit the reef.
Last Wednesday morning (2:30am, 5th October, 2011, NZT) the cargo ship Rena hit the Astrolabe reef on the Tauranga coast. It was the Rena skipper’s birthday the day before. Perhaps he celebrated just a little too much, and that’s how he managed to hit a reef that was clearly marked, on a clear night.
I’m told the path from the Tauranga Harbour into the ocean is at least 30km wide, so nobody is quite sure why the Rena’s course was set so close to the reef. Cutting corners to save gas? Didn’t account for the current? Crew was too drunk? We haven’t yet been told the details. Rena’s skipper has been arrested, and I’m sure there will be an investigation.
They tell us it’s NZ’s worst environmental disaster. I’ve seen the pictures of our beaches (see above), and it’s disgusting.
What I know is that we won’t be having our usual summers on the beach. We won’t be on the beach at all, unless we’re helping with the clean up. I know it says on my “what do you want to know” page that I don’t like being on the beach, and that’s true. But that doesn’t mean my family hates it. They love it. And by no means do I want it ruined for everyone else.
It leaves us with so many questions, and only a few answers that a friend provided, because she works in the shipping industry.
Why haven’t they taken the containers off the ship?
According to my friend, it’s because the two (2!!) barges capable of removing the containers left NZ from lack of work. They went to Australia. The government didn’t think perhaps it would be a good idea to keep one on retainer for situations like this one.
Why haven’t they used helicopters/cranes/barges to get the Rena off the reef?
See the answer above. Apparently the helicopters that used to live in NZ for just such an occasion left due to lack of work. They’re in Australia too. And a crane? Yep, it exists. In Auckland. In such poor repair that it’s unuseable. The company that owns it didn’t see any reason to keep it in good repair, since it rarely saw work. Plus it would need a barge to travel from Auckland to Tauranga. See question #1 for where the barges are. So we’re stuck with one little barge that can’t remove containers and can’t move the Rena. It can remove oil from the tanks, but not in really poor, stormy weather like we’ve had all week!!
Where is the money to clean up this spill going to come from?
An excellent question. My friend says that all cargo ships are charged an oil pollution fee. Apparently 15 years ago there was 17 million (NZD) in this fund, but because it wasn’t being used, the government appropriated it and used it for something else. They still charge this fee but my friend’s not sure if the fund still exists. And will the government cough up that 17 million from 15 years ago? Hmmmmm.
A combination of poor judgement, error, and bad weather. And a disaster for our ocean, our wildlife, our beach, and our summer.