- Watts Shipping Register
- Watts Shipping Register
Nautical News Vol 58 No 2
Containership “Rena” Stranding
RENA sailing from Botany Bay on 25 September 2012.. Ross Walker
At 2.20a.m. on 5th October 2011, the containership Rena (37,209 gross tonnage, built 1990) ran aground at her full speed of 17 knots on Astrolabe Reef, a patch of rocks off Tauranga, whilst on a voyage from Napier to Tauranga, with 1,368 containers and 1,673 tonnes of heavy fuel oil bunkers on board. The ship was immediately badly damaged, with Nos. 2 & 3 cargo holds flooded to a depth of six metres, with the ship having an initial 11-degree port list.
After her stranding, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) declared a Tier 3 oil spill response, and various staff and equipment were mobilised to Tauranga. Heavy fuel oil leaked from her damaged bunker tanks on the night of 5th/6th October and created an oil slick five kilometres long, with much concern for possible damage to the environment raised by various concerned bodies and members of the public. Svitzer Salvage Co. were appointed as contacted salvors by her owners. The inshore patrol craft H.M.N.Z.S. Rotoiti and Taupo arrived on the afternoon of 8th October to assist, and the diving support vessel H.M.N.Z.S. Manawanui arrived on the evening of 9th October. The bunkering tanker Awanuia (2,747 gross tonnage, built 2009) arrived off Tauranga at first light on 9th October from Marsden Point (her arrival was delayed because she was already in Auckland loaded with fuel oil, and had to return to Marsden Point to discharge her cargo back to the refinery. Previously, she would have been able to discharge her oil into tanks at Wynyard Wharf, but that area is now Wynyard Quarter!). She had been released by Z-Energy from her charter to bunker cruise ships and other commercial vessels at Auckland. However, she spent all that day manoeuvring around the stranding site, and was unable to get alongside Rena until early evening (suffering damage to her bow in the process), when about ten tonnes of oil; was transferred. Also on site to assist her, was the Auckland tug Waka Kume, of 50 tonnes bollard-pull, which sailed from Auckland on 7th October for Tauranga. By 9th October, two Coromandel-based mussel-boats, Northern Quest and Phoenix, had been chartered and used to tow oil recovery booms (“J-booms”) and associated equipment to attempt to recover some of the black fuel oil leaking from the stranded ship. They were joined on 10th October by another, Union Beach. The Navy oiler Endeavour sailed from Devonport on the morning of 9th October and anchored off Tauranga on the evening of the same day to be used as a command and control centre for the recovery operations.
On 10th October Awanuia again manoeuvred, this time lying close-astern of Rena, with the tug Waka Kume holding her from contacting her hull, but worsening weather made it necessary to abort this operation before noon. On the afternoon of 10th October, CentrePort’s tug Ngahue sailed from Wellington to Napier, and this enabled the Napier tug Ahuriri to reposition to Tauranga to assist with the salvage operation.
13 October 2011 with rig supply vessel SWIHER TORUNN standing off V H Young/L A Sawyer
On 11th October, during bad weather, Rena’s crew and salvage team were airlifted from the ship by helicopter. Later that day she came upright on the reef, but by evening had taken an 18-degree starboard list, more oil escaped, and about seventy containers fell overboard from collapsed container-stacks on deck. By 12th October, when Waka Kume had returned to Tauranga for stores, fuel, the Napier tug Ahuriri was attached to her stern with a towline, and she was joined by the larger Swiber Torunn (1,537 gross tonnage, built 2008) later that day. A northerly gale and heavy swell battered the vessel on her starboard beam, and Swiber Torunn tried to hold her stern against the wind. However, later in the afternoon large cracks in her hull were noted port and starboard, clearing indicating structural break-up, and by evening she had developed an 18-degree starboard list, later increasing to 22-degrees. About three hundred tonnes of fuel oil escaped from her, causing further widespread oil pollution, contamination of beaches and many more oiled wildlife deaths.
The “Project Cargo/Heavy Lift” Ship Pancaldo (6,275 gross tonnage, built 2000) sailed from Wellington on 13th October to Tauranga “to assist”, and arrived at Tauranga on 15th October. On 21st October she left Tauranga to be used for the recovery of containers from the sea bed. Also on 21st October, the large anchor-handling tug Go Canopus (2,310 gross tonnage, built 2009) arrived from Papeete to assist. Maritime New Zealand and Svitzers concentrated their efforts in removing as much heavy fuel oil as possible from the stern area of Rena.
By 23rd October, equipment and people involved were:- approximately 600–800 people in the oil spill response team, including 140 National Oiled Wildlife Response Team personnel working on the response, including veterinarians, expert responders and ornithologists with experience in the capture and treatment of oiled birds Around 60 trained oil spill responders leading clean-up and oil recovery operations Over 370 New Zealand Defence Force personnel were providing support to the oil spill response, doing beach clean-up, and conducting aerial and on-water operations Technical advice and support from Australia, the UK, the Netherlands and Singapore with offers of assistance and equipment and under international agreements 35 member salvage team from the appointed salvage company Svitzer – with local support teams and colleagues providing round-the-clock technical advice and analysis from Australia, Singapore and the Netherlands.
19 October 2011. Salvage riggers precariously prepare to remove a stack of empty containers from the stern of RENA. Their safety lines lead to an off camera skyhook, actually the hook of a large crane mounted on an adjacent barge and about to be tightened to take their weight. M H Pryce collection
NZ Defence Force “Seasprite” and “Iroquois” helicopters supported MNZ with aerial observation flights and transport of salvage experts to and from Rena. A Squirrel helicopter was used for winching people on and off Rena. A C172 aircraft was used for aerial observation flights. The MNZ-owned oil recovery vessels Kuaka (from Auckland) and Tukuperu (from Picton), were brought to Tauranga, the Port of Auckland tugs Maui 1 and Waka Kume and the Auckland barge Paponu arrived. A Bell 214 helicopter was used to fly equipment to Rena, carrying 3 tonnes at a time
Svitzer mobilised the crane barge Smit Borneo (110 metres length by 30 metres beam) from Singapore to assist in the salvage efforts. She sailed from Singapore on 10th November in tow of the Svitzer tug Singapore was was expected to take around 28 days to reach New Zealand. The barge SeaTow 60 (2,772 gross tonnage, built 2003) and tug PB Katea (254 gross tonnage, built 2001) arrived in Tauranga on 27th October from Gladstone The barge was fitted with a large 180-tonne and a 280-tonne capacity cranes , intended to be positioned alongside the Rena to offload containers after all oil had been removed.
Container recovery operations were prolonged with Pancaldo and DSV Pacific Pearl working off Motiti Island, with Brandywine there also. The crane barge B.K. Subritzky arrived on 27th October and was to be fitted with two cranes to carry out recovery of containers and container debris from the sea and shoreline from 31 October. The majority of pumpable oil had been successfully removed from Rena by 13th November, when the bunker tanker Awanuia berthed alongside at Tauranga.
Maritime New Zealand had good reason to be well-pleased with the oil recovery operation, the completion of which significantly reduced the threat to the marine environment and coastline. Awanuia sailed on 16th November for Auckland and Marsden Point to resume her normal heavy fuel oil bunkering activities. The salvors then began the slow removal of containers from her deck.
11November 2011. AWANUIA removing bunker oil and rig supply vessel SWIHER TORUNN standing by. Maritime New Zealand
MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Co SA) had made several changes on their Capricorn Service in July 2011 and a new entrant was the chartered Rena, which only made two voyages around the New Zealand coast, the first in early August 2011, and then her second – and last. She was built by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG (HDW) - Kiel, Germany, in 1990 as Zim America for Israeli based Zim Israel Navigation Co Ltd. In 2004 her nominal owners became European Container II KS and then in 2007 she was renamed Andaman Sea. In 2010 she was sold to Greek based Costamare Shipping Co SA and renamed Rena. Managed and operated by Ciel Shipmanagement SA, she was registered under the nominal ownership of Daina Shipping Co under the Liberian flag. Although not having a “MSC” prefix to her name (similar to Italia and Sydney), she features an MSC funnel. She was of 236 metres length overall and 32.2 metres beam. Her three other sisters owned by Ciel are Karmen (ex-Zim Japan), Konstatina (ex- Zim Isreal) and Marina (ex-Zim Hong Kong). All four are names of Greek females. By the third week of November, Rena’s replacement, MSC London (36,266 gross tonnage, built 1986) was operating on the “Capricorn” service.
3rd January 2012. A large crack in the hull which is being gingerly examined by a slavor M H Pryce collection
RENA being pounded by bad weather on 8th January 2012 M H Pryce collection
By the end of November, more containers had been removed by salvors Svitzer’s, but the task was likely to take many months, and always subject to delays from bad weather. Rena’s stranding was a sad event that extended throughout the Rugby World Cup period, followed by the General Election, so always provided a “distraction” for the media from their pre-planned coverage of these two major events. However, Maritime New Zealand’s media team constantly provided daily updates on the situation of Rena and oil pollution response activities, and fully kept the media advised. It will be many months before the oil pollution and oiled wildlife response activities and salvage operations necessitated by Rena’s grounding will end and various enquiries deliver their reports.
At some stage in the future it is likely that Rena will break-up on the reef in bad weather. Litigation over costs is likely to take several years to resolve. “Rena” StrandingOil spill response and salvage operations on the stricken container ship Rena continued for many months after her grounding on 5th October 2011. As previously related, during bad weather she broke in half late on the evening of 7th January 2012, and on the morning of 8th January the stern section slipped off the reef and partially sank, releasing more oil and many containers into the sea. Her accommodation block was nearly totally submerged, but with the broken part of her hull pointing skywards. The bow section remained hard-aground on the reef, and salvage operations continued to remove intact containers from it.
RENA breaks apart on 8th January 2012 and two days later the stern section slips off the reef and partially sinks leaving an oil slick and floating debris. Maritime NZ
9 January 2012. Salvors prepare to land by helicopter using a temporary landing platform built on top of the forward container stack. Later the foremast was cut off to allow helicopters to land on the RENA's f'ocsle.
In late February 2012 her Master and Second Officer pleaded guilty to all the charges, and admitted wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice by altering ship's documents after it grounded. Both also pleaded guilty to charges under the Maritime Transport Act for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk. The Master also admitted a charge laid under the Resource Management Act - where the heaviest penalty is two years' prison and a $300,000 fine - relating to discharging harmful substances from a ship.
An interim report into the grounding was published by the Transport Accident Investigation 8th March 2012. The report found that human error and bridge culture issues allowed Rena to strike the Astrolabe Reef in clear weather in the early hours of 5th October 2011. The interim report into the investigation showed navigation errors were not picked up and that marks were added to charts after the grounding. The report set out the facts and circumstances as established at that point, but did not contain any analysis of the facts or make any findings or recommendations. The facts are that Rena’s last known position before she struck the reef was at 1.42a.m. when the ship was about twenty nautical miles east-north-east of the reef. A seaman tasked with plotting the ship’s GPS position on the chart at 2a.m. failed to do so because the Master and the second mate were leaning over the chart table discussing preparations for their arrival at Tauranga. The position was entered in the log book, and plotted on the chart after the grounding – and at a position further north. The log book was amended to match the charted position. The interim report also noted the second mate set up the ship’s radar to show if the ship had deviated from its track, but the parallel-indexing was switched off at 1.58a.m. to remove clutter from the screen. At 1.50a.m. she was heading directly towards the reef. The investigation found no evidence to support allegations that the Master was involved in birthday celebrations during the voyage. A series of poor decisions by the “totally incompetent”' Rena crew led to the ship’ grounding on Astrolabe Reef, Tauranga’s mayor said. The report into the grounding also indicated the Master was under pressure to reach Tauranga before the ebbing tide made it unsafe to bring the ship into port. Tauranga mayor Stuart Crosby said the report was “quite revealing, Mr. Crosby said. The public would be surprised by the report and how anyone could have made those decisions, he said. “It was a series of poor decisions.” But the damage had been done and nothing could undo the environmental catastrophe. “I just hope these people are never allowed onto a vessel again, or in charge of a vessel, because they’re just totally incompetent.” Green Party Oceans spokesman Gareth Hughes said the report raised the need for compulsory shipping lanes to act as a strong disincentive for ships acting like the Rena had. “But actually I think we need to have a more thorough look into our whole shipping regime. We have one of the most liberalised shipping regulations in the world, allowing these flags-of-convenience ships to supply our waters.” “Rena’s passage plans were repeatedly changed on its journey from Napier to Tauranga, The Master of Rena was looking out into the sea trying to see what a radar signal had picked up when the ship crashed into the Astrolabe Reef. The ship was heading directly for the reef when the radar signal alert was activated, just nine minutes before the grounding. Statements from the second mate and Master about what happened in the moments leading up to the grounding contradicted each other. While the second mate told investigators that he showed the Master the charts, plotting the ship’s path, prior to the radar signal alert, the Master said he didn’t see them.
What Went Wrong? Rena was under pressure to make 3a.m. pilot boat deadline off Tauranga, she made course changes to short-cut the distance to the pilot boat and took her toward Astrolabe Reef, there was confusion over the new course on the bridge, with the watchkeeper, Mastern and second mate all involved, and the crew failed to immediately react to a 2.05a.m. radar echo signal dead ahead.
By 9th March, a total of 647 containers were onshore and accounted for. This included 575 containers removed by salvors and 75 recovered from the water and shoreline by environmental specialists Braemar Howells. On 22nd March 2012 more containers and debris were torn from Rena’s wreck at Astrolabe Reef overnight as a storm caused the stern section to move. On 4th April the stern section of Rena slid into deeper water from the reef and fully sank, releasing more debris into the sea.. The bow-section of the vessel remained on the reef, but suffered further damage to her aft bulkheads.
The name of Astrolabe Reef is now well-known to the public after numerous media articles about the stranding of Rena. It was 1827 when the reef was first discovered by Europeans. An account by Dumont d'Urville related that:-from Tolaga Bay, Astrolabe passed north to the East Cape. No sooner was she off the Cape, on 7th February 1827, than she encountered a heavy swell, the precursor of storms, which, beginning on the 9th, lasted with but little intermission till a shattering climax a week later. Driven for three days to the north-east, by the 13th d’Urville was back at the Cape, and tempted to give up his careful examination of the coast and to make as soon as possible direct for the Bay of Islands. With a more favourable wind, he pushed on into the Bay of Plenty, between Motuhora or Whale Island and the mainland, anxious, but unable, to rectify Cook’s chart where he found it defective. The morning of 16th February dawned with a thick fog, a furious sea and a tempest from the north-east growing every minute in violence—‘a frightful disorder of nature’, said d’Urville, which reduced him to complete ignorance of his position, aware only that he was in danger from every side. A few minutes before noon the fog lifted and his eyes rested on a reef, no more than a mile away, directly in the course of the ship; to one side was a second reef. He sheered off one danger into another; at the risk of capsizing the ship under a sudden press of canvas— she had been carrying hardly any—he clapped on every sail. The corvette heeled horribly, her gunwale under water and her keel visible as she hung on the precipitous slope of a wave; but she met the test finely. “At midday precisely” she had doubled the reef; and d’Urville, drawing breath, was even able to admire the vast cascade of water as the waves flung themselves on the line of rocks, and the sheet of blinding spray which rose forty or fifty feet in the air. The fog had lifted barely in time; shortly afterwards he recognized Mayor Island to the northwest, and with the wind and sea falling sensibly, he made all sail possible northward away from further peril. He was not, it was evident, to be allowed to add materially to knowledge of the Bay of Plenty; nor could he even fix accurately the position of the reef that had so nearly proved fatal, a reef to which—Écueils de 'l’Astrolabe—he gave the name of his ship.
On 4th May 2012 Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) reduced the emergency response to the grounding of Rena from a national to a regional level. MNZ National On Scene Commander announced the downgrade from Tier Three to Tier Two. It meant that responsibility for ongoing monitoring and any future oil spill clean ups were now the responsibility of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. MNZ said the decision was made in consultation with the regional council after analysis of several factors. It also meant a move for MNZ in Tauranga from the incident command centre in Greerton to a smaller space in Mount Maunganui.
Svitzer salvors continued to cut up containers on board the wreck to enable the contents to be removed by helicopter. Continuing calm weather permitted dive operations around the submerged stern section to locate and remove bags of debris from the seabed around the wreck. Braemar Howells had four recovery teams working on coastal Coromandel Beach and the Barrier, to take advantage of the good weather. A motorised barge was in operation as the ‘mother ship’ for smaller vessels, which were ferrying debris to it gathered by shore teams - ranging from wheelbarrow parts and small amounts of timber to noodle packets and plastic beads. In early May, one of Rena’s salvaged lifeboats was auctioned for charity. The 7-metre lifeboat, which was temporarily berthed at the Tauranga Bridge Marina, was auctioned with all fixtures, including its emergency rations. Another Rena life boat was allocated to the BOP Polytechnic’s Maritime Fishing Programme for use in training.
At sentencing in Tauranga District Court on 25th May 2012, Rena’s Master and Second Officer were jailed for seven months for allowing their ship to run aground on the Astrolabe reef last year. Suppression was lifted on the identities of her Master, Mauro Balomaga, and Second Officerr Leonil Relon. In late February the Mastern pleaded guilty to all charges against him, while the Second Officer admitted all charges. The Master also faced an additional charge of altering ship documents. The crew of Rena failed to comply with “basic navigation practices” before the ship ran aground on the Astrolabe reef last year,thea court heard. Paul Maybey QC had argued for home detention for the Master. “Undoubtedly the motivation of [the Mastern] was to divert any enquirer from what actually happened. The circumstances of what occurred are important. The decision was discussed. Premeditation and changes were made to make any enquirer think this boat was on a safe course. Maybe said his client must have been thinking: “We’ve hit a reef, I now know why, it looks really bad. We’ve got make it look like it was a cause other than our own negligence.” He said the decision would have been made by two men “in a bad state of affairs”. “They knew it was being recorded [on the black box]. Discussions were made on the bridge. That gives an idea of their state of mind. “It was hopeless case of a cover up. It was never going to work.” Mabey said the discussions were recorded and subject to outside evidence.
By late May 2012, it was revealed that the clean-up cost to New Zealand taxpayers was over NZ$37 million After the May 2012 sentencing of the Master and Second Officer, the New Zealand media only showed interest with the Rena stranding when something else leaked or fell into the sea. On a global scale, the October 2011 grounding had long become old hat. The Costa Concordia incident in Italian waters further consigned much of the residual Rena media coverage to the back pages.. On 10th June 2012 it was stated that most of the containers on the bow section had been removed, and that the bow was now subject to more movement. The majority of the No 3 hold had gone completely. Parts of it were removed by gas cutting, with the remainder collapsing due to the swell, and all the hatch lids hade been removed. The deterioration of the fore section continued as a result of strong winds. A tender process then began to decide who would complete the salvage operation to remove the wreck from the Astrolabe Reef off the coast of Tauranga.
10 June 2012
Rena’s owners, Daina Shipping of Greece, said the salvage company Svitzer and the barge Smit Borneo had removed all the containers which could be reached. There were 18 containers still on the fore section on the Astrolabe reef, which could not be reached The company overseeing the clean-up frome Rena said it would be a tough job to retrieve the estimated 355 containers still trapped underwater. The anchor-handling tug GO Canopus sailed from Tauranga on the evening of 11th June 2012, bound for Bali and Singapore. Rena’s remains were to lie on Astrolabe Reef over much of winter as a search begins for new contractors to complete the job. A tender process had started for contractors to take up the second phase of the salvage - final removal of the hull from the reef - but until that tender was resolved, Rena would be left alone to face the winter seas. A spokesman for the owners and insurers said the next phase of the wreck recovery would likely begin in August 2012, subject to weather conditions. Since the grounding, a total of 940 accessible containers had been moved ashore. Container recovery company Braemar Howells/Unimar would monitor the wreck site until the tender was awarded.
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