A dive survey to conduct an external visual assessment of the Rena's sunken stern section and its cargo has now been completed.
Early indications from the surveys suggest that of the 36 remaining containers in the stern section carrying known contaminants, many have broken up and their contents have escaped since the vessel broke in two and sank.
Three containers, with cargo intact, were recovered; four were retrieved but were empty of contents; another seven were recovered in pieces; the contents of the remaining 22 are presumed lost to sea.
Captain John Owen of The Swedish Club said: "We have scientists from the Cawthron Institute working with the Rena Recovery Monitoring team to undertake further sampling and testing of water and sediment samples.
"This will then confirm possible solutions to remediate contaminated areas, currently known to be in close proximity to the wreck."
The ship split in two in early January last year and salvage operations prior to that had been unable to reach the containers as they were in the lower holds and inaccessible. Of the 1368 containers carried on board at the time of the grounding, 1007 have been recovered.
Resolve is now using specialist heavy-lifting equipment to remove the large amounts of remaining cargo, wreck and container debris from an area approximately 10,000 square metres around the wreck. More than 256 tonnes of debris has been removed in the last month.
This work will enable scientists to undertake a more detailed study of the surface of the reef to help determine what if any contaminants remain trapped. Two containers of plastic beads possibly also remain trapped by scrap and debris within the stern section. Work to remove this debris will allow Resolve to determine how to deal with the beads and any identified contaminants.
Captain Owen says studies into the environmental, cultural, economic and safety impacts of the different options for dealing with the wreck are near complete. And that a further round of community consultation will be held in late February, before a final decision is made.
Rena Project: Progress to Date
Following the ship's grounding, the owners and insurers have worked with the authorities and local community on a stage-by-stage, on-going recovery programme that so far has included:
- The recovery of around 300 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, of which thousands of volunteers played a huge supporting role.
- The recovery of 1007 of the 1368 containers on board at the time of the grounding.
- The appointment of environmental management specialists, Braemar Howells, to project manage an ongoing debris monitoring and recovery programme.
- The appointment of Resolve Salvage & Fire to reduce the bow section on the Astrolabe reef to one metre below the low-tide mark.
- Resolve is also undertaking a clean-up operation to remove a large amount of the remaining debris from between and around the wreck, covering an approximate area up to 10,000 square metres.
- Reaching a $27.6 million settlement with the New Zealand Government for its costs in responding to the accident.
- Establishing a compensation fund in London ($27 million), including starting legal proceedings to establish a New Zealand fund for third party claims.
- The appointment of a team of specialists to assess a range of options for dealing with the wreck.
For more information, please visit: www.renaproject.co.nz.