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New Zealand Oil Spill Is Country’s Worst Environmental Disaster

Mount Manuganui Beach, New Zealand

An oil leak from from a container ship, the Rena, off the Tauranga coast in New Zealand has increased concern that the country is facing a large-scale environmental crisis.

The container ship’s crew was evacuated following a mayday alarm, and New Zealand’s environment minister, Nick Smith, said the ongoing release of oil into the sea indicates the spill has become the country’s most serious environmental disaster ever.

A rupture to a main fuel tank on the ship has released between 130 and 350 tons of oil into the water. There is still more than 1,600 tons of fuel aboard.

The damage was caused after the ship ran into a reef, and the ship’s hull was dragged, driven by strong winds. The continual movement of the hull has brought about fears that the vessel could break up, triggering an environmental catastrophe.

The Rena is carrying 1,368 shipping containers. At least 22 of them contain hazardous goods. Officials have advised against visiting the coastline, where oil has been surfacing since Monday. A small team of about 100 people has begun cleaning up the oil on Mount Maunganui Beach, a popular swimming beach. The current is expected to push the oil to the south as well.

Costamare Inc, the owners of the ship, said in a statement they are “cooperating fully with local authorities and every effort is being made to control and minimise the environmental consequences of this incident.”

Beautiful Mount Maunganui Beach, Tauranga, New Zealand, where oil from the Rena is beginning to wash up. Image CC licensed by Abaconda Management Group:

More video of the stricken container ship Rena, from 3News,  showing cracks in the side of the hull and containers washing ashore.

New Zealand oil spill pictures, from National Geographic.

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