Huffpost Green

New Zealand Oil Spill: Half Of Grounded Ship Sinks

Posted: Updated:
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 9: In this handout provided by Maritime New Zealand, MV Rena is seen in two pieces after overnight bad weather pounded the vessel, on January 9, 2012 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Floating containers and debris have been found northwest of the vessel and more is expected to wash ashore today. Rena struck Astrolabe Reef off the coast of Mt Maunganui on October 5, 2011 and has spilled 350 tonnes of oil, and almost 100 shipping containers. (Photo by Maritime New Zealand
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 9: In this handout provided by Maritime New Zealand, MV Rena is seen in two pieces after overnight bad weather pounded the vessel, on January 9, 2012 in Tauranga, New Zealand. Floating containers and debris have been found northwest of the vessel and more is expected to wash ashore today. Rena struck Astrolabe Reef off the coast of Mt Maunganui on October 5, 2011 and has spilled 350 tonnes of oil, and almost 100 shipping containers. (Photo by Maritime New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — One half of a cargo ship that ran aground on a New Zealand reef three months ago began sinking into the ocean Tuesday.

Maritime New Zealand spokesman James Sygrove told The Associated Press that the stern section of the vessel Rena began slipping from its previous position on the Astrolabe reef at about 9 a.m. New Zealand time and three hours later was about three-quarters submerged.

"The front 30 meters (100 feet) is still above the waterline, but the back section and the bridge are all under the water," he said.

Sygrove said the bow section of the boat remained firmly wedged on the reef. He said there is plenty of wood, plastic and other debris floating around the sinking stern section.

"It's quite a fluid situation," he said, adding that authorities remain unsure of what will happen next.

The maritime agency issued an update early Tuesday afternoon saying that the mostly submerged stern section remained perched on the edge of the reef and that a small amount of oil and some containers had fallen overboard along with the debris.

The 774-foot (236-meter) vessel split in two over the weekend amid heavy seas. It has been battered on the reef near the North Island port of Tauranga since it ran aground Oct. 5.

About 150 cargo containers have spilled into the sea since the weekend, with more than 800 still aboard. Many more containers are expected to fall off as the stern sinks.

In the days after it ran aground, the Rena spilled about 400 tons of fuel oil, fouling pristine beaches and killing thousands of seabirds in what has been labeled New Zealand's worst maritime environmental disaster.

Maritime New Zealand estimates that less than 100 tons of oil remains on the ship after salvage crews managed to remove much of the remaining oil and nearly 400 containers. However, it was a slow process removing containers and hundreds were still aboard when it split apart.

New Zealand police closed access to one beach Monday after some people were seen scavenging bags of powdered milk that had washed ashore. Authorities warned that the milk may be unsafe.

More than 30 containers from the ship and plenty of loose debris has washed up at local beaches since the Rena split apart, and authorities have been working to tow other containers out to sea to prevent more from coming ashore. Salvage crews have attached beacons and buoys to some containers so they can be more easily recovered later.

Around the Web

New Zealand braces for oil spill as Rena splits on reef | The Australian

Coast under threat as more Rena containers ... - New Zealand Herald

New Zealand oil slick ship breaks up in storm | ABS-CBN News

Grounded cargo ship breaks apart

Ship grounded off the coast of New Zealand splits in two - CNN.com

Oil spill disaster threatens New Zealand as stranded container ship ...

Grounded Cargo Ship Breaks Apart on New Zealand Reef

Fresh concerns NZ ship wreck debris to wash ashore

Stricken NZ cargo ship breaks up

Little oil seen after ship splits in New Zealand

From Our Partners