The stranding of the Containership Rena on Wednesday morning, occurred in clear fine weather which has persisted for 3 days now. This clear weather is due to deteriorate starting today with a change in wind direction around midday.
It is expected that by the middle of the week it will be too late, high winds will prevent any attempt to unload the fuel oil from the Rena and the likelyhood is high that before the next calm period the ship will be broken on the reef.
It appears that the resources that could have taken advantage of the good weather to pump ALL the oil from this ship are near at hand have been sitting idle and unused.
Collapsible rapid response emergency oil barges made to deal with just this sort of emergency are right here in New Zealand. With even more available in Australia. These collapsable oil barges are specifically designed and made to be deployed instantly in just such an emergency.
Sail-World magazine report that Lancer Industries here in New Zealand manufacture inflatable barges designed specifically to allow oil to be offloaded from ships which have run aground to prevent significant spillage and environmental damage. The barges from Lancer are owned by many maritime authorities around the world including the US Coast Guard.
Able to hold 100 tonnes of oil at a time, they can be delivered in folded up form not much bigger than an office desk. Once filled they can then be towed ashore and after being emptied can be reused.
Lancer barges are designed to be taken alongside a vessel and have the oil pumped into them directly, before being towed ashore to a shore installation
These barges can also be used in a cleanup operation to skim oil that has already leaked, reducing the need to use dispersant.
Three days down the track these emergency barges have not been deployed.
Martime New Zealand own two of these barges.
Sail-World believes that the Martime NZ Lancer barges are located in Te Atatu only a few hours trip by road to Tauranga.
Have these barges been delivered to the scene of the disaster?
If not, why not?
Sail-World also reports that all major governments of the world have agreements in place to fly in such equipment, in the case of an oil spill or pending disaster to offload fuel oil and reduce the extent of any damage.
These additional barges could easily be flown in from Australia if required.
Has our government made this call?
If not, why not?
As well as the two Maritime NZ owned emergency barges, Lancer Industries ltd who are based in the Auckland suburb of Henderson have just made some more of these barges for the US Coastguard with significantly more capacity than the two owned by Maritime NZ.
Why have these barges not been requisitioned as an emergency measure?
These specially designed barges, built for just this sort of scenario, are all owned by private concerns and different authorities.
Why is there no single government authority which in an emergency could commandeer these resources?
Why aren’t these purpose built emergency oil barges already on the scene and being deployed to unload the oil before the weather deteriorates?
Emergency barges are good. But they are useless without tugboats.
Only today, this afternoon in fact, have two large tugs departed from Auckland for Tauranga to deal with the disaster.
Why the delay?
Why were they not dispatched immediately?
Were the commercial operations of the Ports of Auckland given priority over this unfolding disaster?
Who made this decision?
If the weather window closes and the ship is broken on the reef to discharge it’s full load of oil into the ocean. Will anyone be held accountable?