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NZ Oil Spill From Ship Rena Now A National Emergency 12 October 2011

The Army have arrived today, in Mt Maunganui, Tauranga. The Rena is breaking up out on the Astrolabe Reef, and the oil is everywhere. It was reported on TV1 News tonight that people who have been helping to clean up the oil on the beaches, against the advice of the authorities, are getting sick. This oil slick is very, very toxic. There is an acrid smell in the air all around the beaches where the oil is washing up, and even this is causing allergic reactions. The army have set about, wearing protective gear, to begin the task of cleaning up the oil.

Containers from the ship are washing up on shore. There are 1300 containers still on the stranded ‘Rena’, which are dropping into the water. 13 of the containers contain hazardous material. It is possible that all these containers might end up in the sea, as, since the vessel is beginning to break up, any salvaging attempts will be very dangerous for the salvage operators. People are warned not to try and open any of these containers if they wash up on shore, since there is a risk to people’s safety because of the hazardous stuff it could contain. It looks as if Police will try to send the goods back to their owners, and they say that they will prosecute people who try to open the containers and take goods.

Campbell Live at Papamoa Beach on TV 3 tonight, 12 October 2011: John Campbell asks the Prime Minister about the slow response from Maritime New Zealand in acting on the crisis. He points out that the conditions from Wednesday through to Friday last week were magnificent, and that those conditions would have been perfect for getting the oil off the boat – But you did not do anything until Sunday. Couldn’t you have acted more quickly on this calamity, before the calamity became a National disaster, he asks.

The Prime Mininster rejects Campbell’s suggestion that the authorities should have acted more quickly, and that they could have got there earlier to clean up the accident before the oil spilled into the ocean.

Campbell reads out the blurb on the web-site of Maritime New Zealand to the Prime Minister. This claims that Maritime New Zealand ‘ maintains a response capability’ to attend to a spillage of 3,500 tonnes of oil, says John Campbell. He questions John Key about this reassuring statement, which is obviously not true at all.

The Prime Minister brushes off the misleading statement of Maritime NZ, and says we need the worlds best experts to clean up something like this.

So Maritime New Zealand dont have ecperts?, Campbell asks the Prime Minister. John Campbell continues – He asks the PM – What is the level of their expertize needed for this operation, then?

The Prime Minister obviously has his spiel all ready. He doesn’t stutter too much, and goes on about how time was needed to get overseas experts in to deal in the other two disasters over the past year. He gives himself more time, too, telling us that experts from overseas were needed for the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, and the Pike River Mine disaster, and that with the Astrolabe Reef Rena shipwreck, they will also have to get the best people from overseas. He says that it all takes time to work out what vessel we will put the oil into etc etc etc.

Campbell does not let him off so lightly, and asks the PM if it is not possible to act sooner than 100 hours after the accident, to get the oil off the boat.

The PM more or less repeats what he said before, saying decisions have to be made about which pumps to use, which vessel, and how to get the oil off the ship.

Campbell says there is a concern now that the stern of the ‘Rena’ is breaking up. The problem is how to keep it on or near the reef until the oil and cargo are taken off.

So Who Is Going To Pay For The Clean-Up? The vessel is registered in Liberia, which doesn’t mean much. The Mediterranean Shipping Company chartered it out. Campbell Live’s reporter Maharangi Forbes visits them. They move in glamorous circles, she says. Sophia Loren launched the cruise-liner Orchestra. They own the massive ‘Fantasia’ cruise ship which was launched recently. This is supposed to have very high environmental standards which is ‘in perfect harmony with the sea’.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company is the second largest in the world. It has 350 officers from all around the world. Several of them are in New Zealand. Maharangi Forbes attempts to get them talking on camera for us, but all three officers ask for the filming to stop once they realize they are on camera. It is not our ship, said one officer interviewed in New Zealand. It has got our cargo on board, but it is not our ship, he says. The MSC do not own this ship.

Costamere, a Greek company own it. Maharangi Forbes goes to this shipping company for an interview. No luck with this attempt to pin these people down. No one has any idea who will pay for this disaster.

Campbell interviewed some of the commercial boat owners in the Mt Maunganui area. Very disappointed people. Many people will have to shut down and take the dole now. Or move to another, clean location, if they can afford to set up elsewhere. Berths for these fishing boats costs $100 a week, so if they are not earning the money through their fishing and tourist ventures, how do they pay this?

Campbell comments on the strong smell of the toxic oil.

He speaks to a salvage expert in Wellington. This man says that in law the operator of the ship is liable. But the Meditarranean Shipping Company is the charterer, who does not have direct control over the vessel. He says that he is not a lawyer, but expects that a vessel should be operational to a reasonable standard. He talks about a ship called Exxon and an incident connected with this boat. He talks about the ‘Erica’, which went down off the Spanish Caoast. (This boat might have been owned by the MSC) This was an environmental disaster for Spain which was pursued through the French court. The company couldn’t disconnect itself from being liable.

On the ‘Rena’ failure, John Campbell asks how it is possible for a ship travelling at 17 knots to drive into a reef. He says that this is unprecedented. And how quickly the stern is coming off.

Campbell’s guest , who has a marine background and spent 12 years at sea, says that it is important that the media are engaged. He is happy to give his thoughts and expertise on the problem. They mention the good weather last week, before the storm, when conditions were ideal for removing the oil from the ‘Rena’.

Would you have done anything differently in this past week says campbell. His guest replies that he doesn’t know what happened between wed and friday, but that the salvos arrived on friday and began on sunday to remove oil from the boat. He says “What should have happened is that by wednesday, the oil in the fuel tanks should have been heated up so that it could be pumped out – It would have taken 24 hours to get the oil out after the oil had been heated up”, he said. You would need drawings of the ship. Early decision making would have been essential, says John Ridey ? from Marico ? in Wellington.

So what about the coastal community at Mt Maunganui, Campbell asks – what will be the impact on them?

Mark Armistead from Extreme Sport Tours takes people out on a regular basis to fish for Swordfish on the Astrolabe Reef. He fears that his business will go under. He is thinking of heading North, or down the East Cape. It might take years for his business to right itself after the Rena oil disaster. It costs $100 a week for a boat’s berth, and at this stage, these boats cannot earn any money to pay for this. The boats have to stay out of the water at the moment, as it is dangerous to be driving through the water at the present time. There is the oil hazard, which might cause damage to the boats, and there is also the danger of hitting a random container beneath the surface of the water. One boatie said that a metal boat might withstand hitting one of these containers, but a wooden vessel could very well sink if it hit a container.

The reactions of the local people who voiced their emotions on Campbell Live tonight: Disbelief. Anger. Outrage. Bloody angry. Bloody angry. Shouldn’t have been sitting out there for days before they decided to try to get the oil off last week, while the weather was beautiful and fine. They knew the storm was coming, but didn’t act. Why didn’t they do something about it before the storm came? This is the worst thing ever to have happened here. How could they have let it get this way?

They stand, they stare, they cry, said John Campbell.

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