If Part I of the Rena disaster (see this earlier post) was the wreck on October 5, Part II is the salvage effort. This morning, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told reporters the cost of the clean-up and salvage operation could top $100 million. The bill so far is around $10 million.
Salvage began in earnest a few days ago when salvage teams started pumping more than 160 tons/day of oil off the stricken vessel. As of today, two of the five fuel tanks have been completely emptied–882 tons of the 1370 tons originally on board. Salvors estimate more than 350 tons has leaked into the sea.
Salvage continues at a relentless pace. As Salvage Unit Manager Kenny Crawford told Television New Zealand:
The salvors are also making good progress on accessing the starboard number five tank, which is under water… The divers had created the first half of a coffer dam that will seal off the entrance to the tank, and were now working on the second half. Once this was done, they could begin pumping out the water and opening the hatch. “It’s hard, difficult and dangerous work for the divers who are working in oily water with little light,” Crawford said.
Only after the last tanks are emptied can salvors begin offloading the 1288 containers that remain aboard the Rena. The Pencaldo, a ship with a crane, is already on the scene to remove containers as soon as the last drop of oil is pumped from the submerged tanks, which should happen relatively soon. Nevertheless, Transport Minister Steven Joyce painted a bleak picture of the work ahead:
The number of containers you can get off that ship is in the single figures per day and we know there are a lot of containers. I think everybody should be prepared that it will be a significantly long haul. Given the fact storms occur from time to time, there’s every likelihood more containers will end up in the sea.
On nearby beaches, volunteers continue to clean up the oil. About 6,700 people have registered so far, although more are expected to help this weekend. One of the more interesting Rena salvage efforts is taking place at the Wildlife Rescue Centre at Te Maunga where more than a dozen people are constructing “specialised penguin enclosures” to house 314 of the flightless birds rescued by the Centre.
For great videos explaining the Rena salvage look here.