Monday, October 17, 2011

Activists Fail To Board Survey Ship

Police took to Port Taranaki yesterday to chase Greenpeace protesters away from a ship about to survey Taranaki waters for oil drilling. Five protesters on paddleboards and carrying signs approached the Polarcus Alima at its berth. They were intercepted by a police boat and issued with trespass notices. The 90-metre Polarcus Alima will remain in New Zealand waters for up to seven months. Its first assignment is to conduct a three-dimensional survey in the Deepwater Taranaki Basin for US oil giant Anadarko. The protest drew a heavy police presence and public access to the small boat area on the eastern side of the port was blocked by Port Taranaki. A police launch had been brought to Taranaki in expectation of a seaborne protest. Senior Sergeant Terry van Dillen said no protesters were able to board the vessel despite attempts earlier in the day. "Our presence is purely to ensure that everyone's rights are respected. We are there to protect the lawful right to peaceful protest and the lawful right of the oil company which owns the vessel to go about their lawful business."Greenpeace campaigner Simon Boxer said yesterday's protest was designed to expose the fact that even as oil continued to seep from the wreck of the container vessel Rena off Tauranga, the Government was pushing ahead with the next phase of its controversial deep sea oil drilling plans. "It's time they stopped spending millions on trying to entice the deep sea oil industry to New Zealand and telling us that to drill ever deeper is the only future for this country. "This is simply not true – study after study tells us that leveraging New Zealand's clean reputation is the key to our economic future," he said. Greenpeace claims there has been a surge of public interest after the Rena spill, with thousands of New Zealanders signing its No New Oil petition over the last week, bringing the number of signatories to more than 92,000. Anadarko New Zealand corporate affairs manager Alan Seay said Greenpeace was "perfectly entitled" to make its views known. "But it also needs to be pointed out that the oil and gas industry has earned billions of dollars for New Zealand, and has the potential to earn billions more. And energy operations in New Zealand are to very strict safety and environmental standards," he said.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rena Splits In Two – Time Is Short

Salvors onboard the cargo ship Rena are in a race against the clock to pump oil from the ship which has split in two and is resting in a precarious position on the reef. Maritime New Zealand salvage unit manager Bruce Anderson says northwesterly winds and large sea swells forecast for this evening could cause a another large oil spill and potentially dislodge the ship from the reef. Rena, stranded on the Astrolabe Reef for 13 days is breaking up. “The vessel has broken up in two pieces. “We are expecting the wave height to increase and choppy seas to cause problems. “If the wave action dislodged the vessel we are into a different set of circumstances.” Bruce says the ship is in two pieces, with the stern resting in a precarious position on the edge of the reef, while the front of the ship is securely grounded on the reef. Bruce says if the ship moves off the reef it could puncture a fuel tank causing more oil to leak. There is estimated to be 1300 tonnes of fuel still onboard the ship and Bruce says people can expect another large oil spill from the duct keel of the ship. “It is not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’ the oil hits the beaches.” Evacuation procedures are in place for salvors working on the Rena and Bruce says if needed they could move from the stern of the vessel to the front of the ship. Two helicopters are also on standby to remove personnel from the vessel if required. Nine people are onboard the vessel and are planning on working through tonight to pump oil from Rena onto the barge vessel Awanuia.
“Salvors want to stay on board for as long as they can to pump as much oil off the vessel as possible. If they had to evacuate they would seal the tanks.” Twenty one tonnes of oil was pumped from the ship overnight in what Bruce says is a long, hard process pushing oil with the consistency of marmite through a three inch hose. Three people worked on Rena overnight in “dangerous conditions”. “It’s grinding and creaking – it is the sound of a vessel dying.” New booster pumps being installed today are expected to speed up oil transfer operations. So far 88 containers have been lost overboard from Rena with more expected to fall from the ship tonight. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we lose more containers tonight.” National On Scene Commander Nick Quinn says surveillance areas have been extended to include White Island as the oil is expected to head north in the next 24-48 hours. “Containers have been sighted near White Island.” Nick says there is no indication of any oil at sea expected to hit Whakatane but a base has been set up there as a precaution. Maritime New Zealand is asking people not to collect seafood from the Maketu, Mount Maunganui and Matakana Island areas, and where oil has washed ashore. “There is no intention to stop fishing in areas apart from within the one kilometre exclusion zone around Rena.” The aerial exclusion zone has been reduced to 1000 feet and three nautical miles.

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