The Rena timeline: capacity and execution

Written By: - Date published: 12:35 pm, October 15th, 2011 - 82 comments
Categories: disaster - Tags: ,

The Herald has produced an extremely useful and detailed timeline of the Rena disaster to date. For me, it raises several questions that, I think, you can divide into two categories: first, did the government have the plans and equipment it needed to deal with a spill and, second, was the response carried out effectively?

Capacity:

Why hadn’t the government pursued the idea of getting an environmental protection vessel in the wake of Deepwater Horizon?
Earlier this year, in very similar circumstances, the freighter Godafoss hit a reef off Norway in the country’s only marine reserve, not far from the border with Sweden. The grounding happened on the evening of Thursday the 17th of February. Norway and Sweden (with a combined population only 3.5 times ours and combined GDP 6 times ours) between them boost dozens of environmental protection vessels designed for picking up oil and transferring it from stricken ships. The Swedish coastguard has 12 EPVs, the Norwegian coastguard another 6, and the Norwegian Clean Seas Association for Operating Companies can call on another 25 Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue multi-purpose vessels equipped for oil response. So, a flotilla of ships was quickly on its way to the Godafoss. Within a day, they had stopped the leak, surrounded the ship with booms, and mopped up most of the 100 tonnes that spilled. Despite the severe damage to the ship and grounding taking place just 100m from shore, after fears of a catastrophe, little environmental damage was done.

Why doesn’t New Zealand have any of these vessels? Why didn’t the governemnt follow up with the idea last year? Why don’t the new onshore and offshore petrol vessels have oil response capacity rather than just being pretty useless mini-warships?

The vessel we had to rely on to pump out the oil was the Awanuia, a small tanker designed to refuel cruise ships and freighters that was in Auckland but first had to sail to Marsden Point to unload the oil it already had onboard, which delayed its arrival by days.

Update: The Jackel has the Awanuia‘s GPS logs (man, it’s amazing what’s on the internet). It turns out it didn’t even leave to pick up the oil from the Rena until Friday and it didn’t go to Marseden Point at all. It seems it was on its ordinary journey from Auckland to Marsden Point to put on more fuel and got halfway there before turning around and heading to the Rena – that added 15 hours to its journey. It didn’t even leave Auckland until two and a half days after the Rena grounded. We were lied to about why the Awanuia took so long, it wasn’t offloading fuel, it seems just hadn’t been asked for. Updated Update: I rechecked the GPS myself and it looks like the records cease for 9 hours. Presumably, it went up to Marsden Point and headed back during this time.

Why was the offer of the Lancer inflatable oil recovery barges, made on Day 1, ignored?
It just seems staggering that these world-class vessels (which, contrary to Steven Joyce’s claims, are designed to operate in rough seas) were sitting in Auckland, ready and waiting and Maritime New Zealand chose not to take up the offer.

Why are the head honchos of Maritime NZ accountants, not seafarers?

Apparently only a handful of MNZ’s senior people have ever been to sea. What more needs to be said on that one?

Execution:

Why did the Northern Quest and Phoenix barges stay in harbour, rather than going out to meet the oil?

It just seems bizarre that these two barges, which can mop up oil, have just sat in Tauranga harbour waiting for the oil to come to them.

Why did the salvors come from the opposite side of the world?
Maritime NZ told the shipping company to appoint salvors and that got a Dutch company, presumably already contracted, to come out. It’s 24 hours flying time around the world and you typically add another 10-12 for transfers. Getting the Dutch to Tauranga took until Day 4 for the salvors to arrive from the Netherlands. I understand this is a specialist skill, but was there really no-one closer, like in Asia or the West Coast of the US? That could have cut the deployment time in half, giving them another day or more to get the oil pumping out. If the oil couldn’t be moved without the salvors fixing the pipes (and, I believe that’s not correct: the oil could be pumped off the ship still, the pipes were needed to move the oil between tanks within the ship) then why did the government allow such a slow reaction?

Why did it take so long to mobilise the locals and show them the plan?
On Friday, Day 3, Steven Joyce was saying that oil was inevitably going to come ashore. Yet, when it did, three days later, there was no response. Pissed off locals took it on themselves to do the job. It wasn’t until Thursday that the government bothered to organise training of volunteer team leaders to do the beach cleaning (yeah, this ‘complex task’ that locals were told they shouldn’t try to do themselves is so hard you can do it as long as you’re overseen by someone who had half an hour’s training)

When did the government get their first briefing and what decisions did they take?
In today’s Herald, John Roughan writes:

When a Prime Minister hears that a fully laden container ship has foundered on a populated coast, I imagine he summons a crisis meeting of ministers and chief executives of all agencies that could possibly be useful.

At that meeting he should not be listening to reasons why not much can be done before the weather breaks.

If he is hearing only problems and excuses, I would hope he stops the talk and, speaking very slowly and clearly, says we will not have oil destroy Bay of Plenty beaches next week, we will not have floating containers pose a risk to shipping from our busiest export harbour, the livelihoods of people in fishing, tourism and recreation industries will not be ruined this summer.

He tells them he will reconvene the meeting in two hours and says, “When I come back I want to hear what we are going to do.”

I can’t hear Key talking like that, nor Transport Minister Joyce. I can easily hear Rob Muldoon, Richard Prebble, Jenny Shipley or Helen Clark.

Clark would have applied some media pressure. Right after such a session she would have told reporters what she expected from Maritime New Zealand and would have aligned herself with public anger if solutions were not forthcoming.

I don’t believe Key had any such briefing. It shouldn’t be news to anyone by now that Key doesn’t do details. In fact, Key was so isolated from the unfolding disaster that he was in the Bay of Plenty on Day 3 and didn’t make any reference to the Rena. The next Tuesday, when the oil was really coming ashore and people were circumventing the useless official response, Key was in Hamilton putting up Brighter Future signs. Talk about out of touch. As Roughan concludes:

This week nothing seems as certain, not even the election now that something has happened to remind us of it and raise the question. How well are we being governed, really?


How much is this cock-up hurting National?

Make no mistake, National knows it has stuffed up big time and is now basically praying this will all go away.

You can tell how a political party feels about an issue by how much they talk about it. In over 250 posts between them (that’s 1 an hour 24/7, guess they have nothing better to do) since the grounding, David Farrar and Cameron Slater have written less than a dozen concerning the Rena and they’ve either being attacking Labour and the Greens or trying to minimise the issue. The Beehive site doesn’t contain a single press release on the Rena out of 70 released since it grounded. Remember, this is a story that has dominated the press for over a week. But National just doesn’t want to talk about it.

The Nats know this hurts them on a number of levels. It derails the government’s oil drilling agenda. Its reputation as a competent manager is lost. Key’s all-important Brand is blackened and that’s transferring to coverage of his other actions (eg S&P lies, the throat-slitting, the Tupperwaka lock-out, gay policy, and economic management).

The perpetual smirk at the corner of Steve Joyce’s lips doesn’t help either.

National’s reaction reeks of panic. Witness Key, Farrar, Slater, and John Armstrong attacking Labour for quite sensible and entirely justifiably announcing a moratorium on deepsea oil drilling until such time as we have the capacity to deal with oil spills properly (Armstrong is an extraordinary isolated voice in today’s Herald, and watch the video in the link above for Goff’s excellent rebuttal of Key’s petulant comments, National is so aware of how bad Key has been that they’re trotting out the excuse that he’s sick). While National is still acting like a rabbit in the headlights, Labour is nimbly reacting to changed circumstances. National’s only answer is anger because it knows Labour is on the right side of sense and public opinion, and National can’t follow for ideological reasons.

The Rena is an issue of competence and preparedness. This is where Labour excels; it is chock full of people who are used to governing and used to reacting to changed circumstances. National is not. It will continue to do what it excels at: trying to manage expectations in the media and deflect blame with their pointless obsession over why the Rena went aground. Sometimes, all the spin in the world doesn’t work and, in fact, it becomes transparent for what it is. Watch for Labour to announce new policy on oil response while National continues to flounder.

The Rena disaster is a tough situation, make no mistake. But the government’s job is to deal with tough situations by being prepared and competently executing its reaction. The Rena has shown National is not up to it.

82 comments on “The Rena timeline: capacity and execution”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    The NATs haven’t seen any reaction yet. Wait until a month from now, as summer is turning on for real in the Bay of Plenty, the beaches are fucked* and it becomes clear that people have changed their holiday plans to be far away from the area.

    Oh, it will also be the week before elections.

    *Of course, the NAT govt could suddenly turn competent and organise a rapid, massive and efficient clean up. But seeing what they’ve done in Christchurch, that’s not likely.

  2. RedLogix 2

    Eddie… a fine, passionate and well put together post.

    The failure of MNZ to react promptly and effectively to this crisis has it’s roots in National Party ideology that fundamentally does not believe in government and seeks to dismantle public service capacity at every opportunity.

    There have now been at least four major events in the country, the leaky building crisis, the Cave Creek disaster, the Pike River Mine disaster and now the Rena disaster … all of which have root causes directly linked to National Party policy.

    And there will be more coming down the track at us.

  3. Andrei 3

    To answer some of your questions

    Why did the salvors come from the opposite side of the world?
    Because Ocean Salvage is a very specialized business and there is little opportunity in New Zealand to develop and maintain the skills in it.

    Why are the head honchos of Maritime NZ accountants, not seafarers?

    Ask Helen Clark, she appointed them

    Norway and Sweden (with a combined population only 3.5 times ours and combined GDP 6 times ours) between them boost dozens of environmental protection vessels designed for picking up oil and transferring it from stricken ships.

    Norway’s merchant fleet: 1412 vessels

    New Zealand’s merchant fleet: 15 vessels.

    In addition shipping traffic in the North Sea and the Skagerrak are manyfold those around our coasts and in both areas there are offshore oilwells.

    Perhaps if we had offshore drilling we could afford the vessels you desire?

    • Eddie 3.1

      “Because Ocean Salvage is a very specialized business and there is little opportunity in New Zealand to develop and maintain the skills in it.”
      – I’m not saying there ought ot have been salvors ‘in New Zealand’. I’m saying there are ones ‘closer than as far away as you can be in the world from New Zealand’.

      “Ask Helen Clark, she appointed them”
      – No she didn’t. Senior appointments are a matter for the board and the state services commission

      I’m not saying we need dozens of ships and all the rest of the equipment that Norway and Sweden have at present but we evidentally need some capacity. Just a couple of ships. Why didn’t the government go further with the idea? Why aren’t any of the navy’s useless tool warships equipped for oil spills?

      “Perhaps if we had offshore drilling we could afford the vessels you desire?”
      We have offshore drilling. The issue is deepsea drilling, which Deepwater Horizon showed causes risks of blowouts that are very hard to fix.

      Deepsea drilling would add a tiny fraction to our GDP at best. It wouldn’t be the difference between a couple of boats being affordable or not.

      I see Rolls-Royce does an environmental protection vessel on a 5-year lease for $15m. That’s regarded as top of the line and expensive. The NZ government pays $10m a day in interest costs thanks to this government’s proligiate borrowing for tax cuts. It’s a matter of priorities.

      If we are to have deepsea drilling, I would expect that the oil companies – who would be making a fortune – would be compelled to provide a flotilla of EPVs. Nothing less can be acceptable to a reasonable person.

      • Reality Bytes 3.1.1

        “I see Rolls-Royce does an environmental protection vessel on a 5-year lease for $15m. That’s regarded as top of the line and expensive.”

        Could have rented 3 of them for about the cost of the America’s cup taxpayer handouts. Crewed them with a mix of navy personnel on rotation (build and keep skills), and Maritime NZ staff hired with practical sea work as part of their job portfolio instead of experts in full-time paper shuffling.

      • Deadly_NZ 3.1.2

        “If we are to have deepsea drilling, I would expect that the oil companies – who would be making a fortune – would be compelled to provide a flotilla of EPVs”

        Unfortunately Eddie, if we have the same money, money, money, clowns in charge. Then I fear that EPV’s and anything else that gets in the way of them getting even more of the mighty dollars, will just like the law update for compensation just gather dust on some ones desk until OOPS we needed them yesterday. It’s just the nature of the money hungry beast.

    • RedLogix 3.2

      New Zealand’s merchant fleet: 15 vessels.

      And once upon a time, before the neo-liberal ideology demanded that it be smashed, it was far larger than that.

      By contrast Norway is a country that very carefully eschewed that same madness, nationalised it’s oil industry and ensured that the wealth generated in the country stayed in the country.

      Unlike New Zealand which has been hocked off to the lowest bidder.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.3

      …and there is little opportunity in New Zealand to develop and maintain the skills in it.

      Training. We get the reports from accidents around the world and the lessons learned from them and then train in the responses. Waiting for an accident to happen and then saying, well, it just doesn’t happen often enough for us to be skilled is really quite stupid – exactly what I’d expect from RWNJs though because they are really quite stupid.

      Norway’s merchant fleet: 1412 vessels

      New Zealand’s merchant fleet: 15 vessels.

      In addition shipping traffic in the North Sea and the Skagerrak are manyfold those around our coasts and in both areas there are offshore oilwells.

      We have a large marine area and lots of ships passing through it. Then again, that doesn’t really matter – the simple fact that we have any ships passing through requires us to be able to respond to those ships having accidents.

      Perhaps if we had offshore drilling we could afford the vessels you desire?

      We can afford them now. All we’d have to do is increase taxes slightly.

      • Andrei 3.3.1

        Training. We get the reports from accidents around the world and the lessons learned from them and then train in the responses.

        We are not talking Gender Studies or Political Science here, disciplines that rely upon Bullshit baffling brains – but heavy Engineering where screw ups are life threatening and expensive and where hands on experience in addition to solid theory is required.

        In Engineering even simplest things require hands on experience to master – you could read every book ever written on Arc Welding but put an arc welding electrode holder in your hand for the first time and it wont happen for you.

        • Reality Bytes 3.3.1.1

          “In Engineering even simplest things require hands on experience to master – you could read every book ever written on Arc Welding but put an arc welding electrode holder in your hand for the first time and it wont happen for you.”

          Hire a small handful of highly experienced specialist disaster response personnel from other countries. Even if you hired half a dozen top of the range guys on 120k per year, that’s still only $7.2mil per decade, or less than the cost of a single round of ministerial BMW upgrades (with change left over for a few mine inspectors).

          Get these veterans to train, lead and up-skill a bunch of rookies already associated with maritime stuff anyway. Navy personnel on rotation for the engineering oceanic tasks, and keen local volunteers for the mess response tasks. Get a core of these trainees out on secondments with other nations disaster response teams, get them involved in international incidents whenever disasters occur, to get the experience, the veteran guys can tag along and lead/oversee them so they aren’t a liability.

          Earn international brownie points along the way for helping other nations out, and build up in-house capabilities and skills along the way. Sure the travel and associated costs could cost a tupperwaka or two over a decade, but look at the shitstorm and damage from a single Rena. Bargain in comparison.

          • felix 3.3.1.1.1

            All good ideas RB, but a bit old fashioned.

            Wouldn’t it be a more cosmopolitan to just leave it to the market and hope for the best?

        • Draco T Bastard 3.3.1.2

          Andrei, you’re a fucken idiot. Training also involves hands on experience the same way training in the army uses real guns and bombs and isn’t just reading books about guns and war.

          • Andrei 3.3.1.2.1

            Maybe so, my Friend but I do know that there are three or four groundings of large merchant vessels in New Zealand waters every year and in the vast majority of cases they are refloated without much notice by the general public if any at all.

            This isn’t even the first time a container ship grounding has resulted in a major oil spill. In the eighties a Korean vessel on its maiden voyage hit rocks in Cook Strait after leaving Wellington Harbour and there were oily birds and seals just like today, No clean up crews though because that part of the coast was inaccessible – It was eventually refloated and towed to India for scrapping. Long forgotten now but it happened.

            • Draco T Bastard 3.3.1.2.1.1

              …New Zealand waters every year and in the vast majority of cases they are refloated without much notice by the general public if any at all.

              And that’s a good excuse to fail now is it?

            • Colonial Viper 3.3.1.2.1.2

              Long forgotten now but it happened.

              Still doesn’t explain why Key and Joyce sat on their hands for the first 72 hours of fine weather.

              …New Zealand waters every year and in the vast majority of cases they are refloated without much notice by the general public if any at all.

              Oh really? So what went wrong this time?

            • KJT 3.3.1.2.1.3

              The average is much less than 4 a year.
              This year the average was pushed up by one which grounded three times, in Manukau, at slow speed, on the mud, due to engine problems.

              The ship which grounded off Wellington was the Pacific Charger. The Captain was from that home of high standards of seamanship and manufacturing, China. And the ship was a FOC. He went on to ground another ship.

      • mik e 3.3.2

        Andrei perhaps if we had a decent procedures at Maritime NZ this vessel would be broken up in India and not on our oldest charted reef. By a cheap incompetent foreign crew that had a litany of incidents.Slick PR is the only thing this governments any good at doing it doesn’t seem to be doing Key any good as he’s been sick all week to much spinning I presume!

    • side show bob 3.4

      For Gods sake Andrei, stop, the two bobs can only handle so much truth. God their brains ( oxymoron) will be exploding for the rest of the day.

  4. tsmithfield 4

    Seems to me that a lot of people are speaking out of a severe dose of hindsight bias.

    However, those actually faced with managing a highly complex situation such as this often have many options to consider with both positive and negative potential outcomes. I don’t doubt that it will be found after the event that improvements could be made to the reaction to this situation, as is usually the case in any complex situation. However, it is never easy to get everything absolutely right when dealing with a situation such as this where the situation is highly complex, many facts are unknown, and conditions are continually changing. Contributors here should remember that people are actually out there risking their lives at the moment trying to resolve this situation.

    In this situation, a key factor seems to be the damage to the internal pipes as mentioned in the Herald article that Eddie has linked to. If anyone knows anything about working with pressure (e.g. hydrualics, compressed air etc) then they would realise that pressure doesn’t just operate in the direction that is required. Pressure will tend to move in the direction of least resistance. If the piping was damaged then indiscriminate pumping could well have resulted in the oil being pumped straight out into the sea rather than into the containment vessel. Hence the need for evaluation and repair of pipe systems before pumping off the boat could begin.

    The technicians working on this have done a great job in being able to transfer the bulk of the oil to a safe tank on the ship. I am sure a major consideration that would have been made at the time was the possibility of the ship sinking before oil could be taken off the ship. If this had happened with the oil positioned in the damaged tanks then there would have been a substantially greater disaster in the event of the ship sinking. As it stands now, if the ship were to sink then the oil should remain contained in the secure tanks. Given that it tends to become much more viscous with cooling, there should be very little risk from the oil if it is in the extreme cold of the bottom of the sea.

    • RedLogix 4.1

      Nice try at a deflection ts.

      I’d agree with much of what you are saying, but you deliberately avoid the crucial question. That is, why did it take four days, thats 96 hours or so, to even start trying to pump oil overboard?

      Much of that time seems to have been misspent fritzing about with paper-work, process and flying experts in from overseas. Now while all that needed to be done, it should not have taken priority over urgently getting local resource in place and implementing a ‘best effort’ to get as much oil off the ship as possible before the forecast bad weather arrived.

      There is plenty of informed opinion around suggesting that such an effort was possible. It may not have suceeded, but then again it might have. Which was a whole lot better odds than what did happen.

      Yes the technical crew on board right now are heroes; I’ve spent a lifetime working and problem solving in heavy industrial settings and I’ve a fair idea of what they up against.

      But the anger here is not directed towards them. It’s the chair polishers in Wellington and their political masters who’ve ensured their nuts were cut off years ago.

      • Andrei 4.1.1

        It wasn’t possible to pump it overboard.

        But do you not comprehend you do not just move tons of fuel around a container ship willy nilly even when things are normal. If you put the wrong loads and stresses on it you can capsize it or break its back. This has happened more than once when the distribution of load throughout the ship has been miscalculated.

        Why people think that politicians and civil servants with accountancy backgrounds rushing out to that ship in the first hours of the incident would have anything of value to add is a complete mystery to me.

        This is a problem that requires highly skilled seamen and marine engineers to deal with not civil servants and politicians.

        • RedLogix 4.1.1.1

          But do you not comprehend you do not just move tons of fuel around a container ship willy nilly even when things are normal. If you put the wrong loads and stresses on it you can capsize it or break its back. This has happened more than once when the distribution of load throughout the ship has been miscalculated.

          Absolute bullshit. The fuel load is only a fraction of the total deadweight in the ship. If the piping in the keel duct was broken then the back of the ship was broken already. The tanks are relatively low down in the hull, moving fuel around isn’t going to capsize it.

          If wasn’t possible to pump it overboard, why do you think they began doing just that on Monday afternoon.

          Why people think that politicians and civil servants with accountancy backgrounds rushing out to that ship in the first hours of the incident would have anything of value to add is a complete mystery to me.

          Me too. Why would anyone expect that? Or are you imagining we don’t have any “highly skilled seamen and marine engineers” in this country?

          • Andrei 4.1.1.1.1

            My friend before you do anything you access the situation – only idiots rush in because it is much easier to make matters worse rather than better.

            And we now know the keel duct has been ripped out but that knowledge took some time to acquire, I don’t know when it was learned and nobody knew on Thursday how much of the ship was aground and how much was floating free. Nobody.

            Who do you think had the authority under law to pump the oil to barges and to acquire barges for this purpose on Thursday?

            The Master of the vessel that’s who! The Government could take ownership at any time but they haven’t and they wont. The Salvers are not working for the NZ Government my friend they are working for the owners but with the Government of course (who have hired their own salvage experts for advice) and it is the Salvers not the Government who are calling the shots – if the Government doesn’t like what they are doing they can take over any time they want but they wont because this is a problem way out of their league and they know it.

            Me too. Why would anyone expect that? Or are you imagining we don’t have any “highly skilled seamen and marine engineers” in this country?

            Sure we do but not that many (this is not a maritime nation for reasons of shortsightedness in previous generations I’d suggest) and certainly none with the experience and expertise required here

            • Kaplan 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Regardless, Awanui could have been en route 24 hours earlier than it was. That was their big gamble, and it backfired.

            • RedLogix 4.1.1.1.1.2

              only idiots rush in because it is much easier to make matters worse rather than better.

              Only idiots leave oil on a grounded ship any longer than necessary, because sooner or later it’s inevitably going to break up or capsize in the first bad storm anyhow.

              And we now know the keel duct has been ripped out but that knowledge took some time to acquire,

              Umm I’d suggest about 4 hours … Wednesday luchtime at the latest.

              Who do you think had the authority under law to pump the oil to barges and to acquire barges for this purpose on Thursday?

              The Director of Maritime New Zealand. That person is virtually a law unto themselves with regards to all matters marine in New Zealand waters.

              hey wont because this is a problem way out of their league and they know it.

              Ah yes. And there is it is. Finally you acknowledge the rub of it. MNZ, like so much else in New Zealand’s public sector, has been gutted of vital capacity.

              And if as you say there industry has been gutted of capacity too, (and I might debate that point), then essentially you are saying there is nothing we could have done about it and any time a ship has an accident or an oil well blows it’s guts… we just have to put up with oil all over our shoreline. And STFU because this National govt finds it annoying when we whine about it.

              Is that pretty much it?

              • Colonial Viper

                Andrei et al has no answer why Maritime NZ authorities were not boots on deck, going over the Rena with a fine tooth comb at dawn 8am Wednesday morning.

            • KJT 4.1.1.1.1.3

              More bullocks.

              MNZ should have known it was urgent.
              Before heating and power was lost and the weather cracked up. (If they even talk to any of their junior staff who had actually been to sea). Unlikely that the pumps most piping and after tanks were damaged considering the ship was aground forward. Pipework could have been rerouted if necessary to use ships systems to pump back to Awanuia. Not beyound competent marine Engineers/fitters.

              The OSC/MNZ had the authority under our law to requisition any vessels or equipment needed

              Awanuia could have been there within 24 hours.

              There were also other barges and tugs around, (some in Tauranga) that could have received the oil. Not to mention the Lancer barges which are sold all around the world for just this purpose.

              It does not take 4 days to helicopter in pumps and generators if the ships piping and pumps are unusable.

              No shortage of merchant mariners with the necessary skills.
              About 100 odd on leave in NZ right now.
              Some even work for MNZ.

              What do you think happens if one of our tankers cannot pump cargo due to a valve or pump failure. You don’t leave it sitting there for 5 days, at 60k a day, waiting for an overseas expert.

              Now the ship is extremely dangerous to work on, the oil is too cold to pump quickly and the ship may break up in the next round of gales.

              We are hearing excuses for the delay, not reasons.

            • mik e 4.1.1.1.1.4

              Andrei that excuse of not rushing in [lack of planning] probably the same excuse why the brighter future is not happening for 90% and why we are not catching up with Australia.
              Slick PR excuses from party hacks and right wing Media ain’t going to cut the mustard.Pike river is another example .The National party put a side the enquiry into safety in mining and same with Joyce and maritime safety.He was to busy winning votes in Auckland with his Motorways are everything nothing else matters Slick PR so far the media has failed to lay the blame where it lies Joyce king of spin.

        • KJT 4.1.1.2

          Of course it was possible.

          And 1700 ton of fuel oil moving in a 40 thousand or so ton ship is not a problem.

          If skilled seafarers had been in charge, not chair polishers, it would have been done.

          It is obvious MNZ had no idea of the capability available and had no plans in place to use it.

        • mik e 4.1.1.3

          BS look at whats happening now Andrei

        • mik e 4.1.1.4

          THE cartoon in the Sunday star times sums it up succinctly

    • Jenny 4.2

      To silence criticism of the government, tsmithfield accuses commenters here of speaking with a severe dose of “hindsight bias”.

      Yet criticism of Government and MNZ inaction ‘here‘ was provably ahead of events.

      I might add that MNZ and the government made their first attempt to pump the oil from the Rena after this stinging attack from the The Standard guest post.

      Coincidence?

      Maybe.

    • Reality Bytes 4.3

      “Seems to me that a lot of people are speaking out of a severe dose of hindsight bias.”

      Maybe, but then there is also the “Lessons Learned.” and “Not settling for mediocrity” element of it. Hillary and the All blacks (along with many many others) didn’t settle for mediocrity. So lets at least try to live up to that proud ‘can-do’ number-8 kiwi heritage – instead of throwing our hands up in the air and resorting to the “It’s all too hard here are my excuses… It’s someone elses fault” attitude.

  5. NattyM 5

    Yes Red there are more to come as the Nats seek to devastate the public service. It’s decimating the ethics committees and making their prime function to encourage and foster clinical trials rather than what its prime function should be – to safeguard the safety of research participants.. In other words, they’ve sold out to the drug companies. How much are they contributing the Nats’ coffers for this election I wonder? Inevitably ethical disasters will follow.

  6. tsmithfield 6

    I am sure there will be an analysis of the initial response, and it may well be we have lessons to learn. It is often not until this sort of situation arises that we find out how good our theoretical responses work in reality.

    However, it seems to me that those in charge did the right thing in transferring and securing the oil in the safe tanks. My understanding is that this goal was achieved within the first four days. According to the article one of the damaged tanks was leaking oil into the sea, so securing this oil immediately was a major priorty.

    Perhaps they treated this as the internal oil transfer as the first priority because they knew bad weather was coming. Transferring the oil to another ship is not a quick operation and can involve complications. Also, as the article says, work was required before any transfer could begin anyway. If the transfer was not complete before the bad weather arrived, and oil was still in damaged tanks, then there could have been a substantial leakage.

    Finally, given the nature of this disaster, I think it is inevitable that some oil would leak into the sea. If the ship breaks up, then any oil still sloshing around in the hull will leak out. So, to some degree, oil pollution is unavoidable. I only hope we can avoid a substantially greater tragedy.

    • Kaplan 6.1

      “Perhaps they treated this as the internal oil transfer as the first priority because they knew bad weather was coming”
      Why did they wait 24 hours to hire the Awanui?

      • Zetetic 6.1.1

        more than 48 hours. The grounding was on Wednesday morning, the Awanuia didn’t leave (and head north before later turning around) until Friday afternoon.

  7. randal 7

    Everywhere National turns there is a reef that somehow they manage to sail into. they so busy congratulating themselves on how smart they are they cant even see the big one coming.

  8. M.Hill 8

    I’m a bit confused about the new type of pump they are trying, they don’t have to pre heat the oil. Do we have these here? Why weren’t they tried earlier? I understand quite alot of ships use this type of fuel, so why were we not a bit more ready? It is really very close to one of our biggest ports. Anyone out there know anything about these pumps?

    • RedLogix 8.1

      An Archimedes screw is a very ancient, possibly the very first, type of pump. It looks like a large screw inside of a hollow tube. As the screw is rotated it lifts the pumped fluid in segments that travel up it’s length.

      They are very good at pumping low heads (< 10-20m) and very dirty or viscous liquids with high efficiency Ideal for this job.

  9. logie97 9

    Working in total darkness with a boat leaning at 20 degrees and in danger of sinking, a crew of men attached side saddles to the vessel, took pumps and heaters and hoses into the depths of a stricken ship and in 24 hours they can start to pump.

    Nine days ago, (Thursday) that same vessel had its own power systems operating and crew prepared to run everywhere. Outside agencies could have come alongside, worked in light and installed the same pumps and heaters and started drilling. That is nothing to do with the benefit of hindsight.

    It didn’t happen because, as John Roughan points out, our opportunistic government ministers demonstrated that they are not able to deal with real issues – just ride on the wave of populist policies.

    • Colonial Viper 9.1

      opportunistic government ministers demonstrated that they are not able to deal with real issues – just ride on the wave of populist media exposure.

      FIFY mate. This Government has no real policy, except to help the 1% at the expense of all of us.

  10. randal 10

    They were too busy giving Simon Power a sendoff. Look at the back issues of the Dompost and see for yourself.

  11. tsmithfield 11

    So perhaps someone might like to put up their own time-line for how they would have handled things given the following known facts:

    1. A container ship has run aground.
    2. Damage unknown.
    3. Likelihood of sinking unknown.
    4. Distribution of oil in the ship unknown.

    Any interventions you propose in your timeline should also include a risk analysis, including the worst case scenario should the intervention fail, or the ship sink in the meantime.

    Your priority is to ensure that damage to the environment is minimised.

    • ianmac 11.1

      Oi TS! The crew on board would know all those answers!
      The Maritime staff of highly paid skilled men and women would know the answers, but if not then why are they employed?
      Incidentally the first thing you do when hitting or going aground is to make a status report. The people on board lives depend on it! By the time the barges arrived 24 hours later the oil would have been heated and ready for removal.

    • Kaplan 11.2

      Day 1 immediately after Tier 3 event response was activated by MNZ the Awanui or better should have been en route. Not end of Day two. That cost them at least 24 hours, probably closer to 36.

      It appears the government gambled on possibly not needing it, they lost, and they can now pay the price in public opinion.

    • logie97 11.3

      … all those unknowns.
      Unknown to whom ts?
      Sounds like a whole lot of people in the know were covering their arses.
      That is a known.
      Key didn’t know or didn’t want to know.
      (He was probably too busy with his RWC ops.)
      Fact is, people in authority should have been demanding to know.

    • Zetetic 11.4

      The precautionary approach would be, when you hear of a large freighter running aground on a reef, you assume that it will sink and lose oil and you begin to react accordingly. If it later emerges that all those things are not necessary, you stand down to the appropriate level. No harm, no foul.

      Or, you can do nothing except cross your fingers until it’s too late.

      Besides, those facts were known within hours. The Awanuia was not requested until Friday.

    • Jenny 11.5

      If all that was known was that the ship was stuck on the reef, (damage unknown) Then it would occur the first thing to do would be to unload the ship ready for salvage. For the containers this would require a floating crane. (with obviously a substantial lead time till arrival at the site of days if not weeks.)

      For the fuel, it requires submersible pumps and hoses to dropped onto the deck by helicopter to be offloaded into any suitable vessel able to hold the oil. (lead in time a matter of hours).

      Actually it doesn’t really matter the technical difficulties because with determination and imagination and daring most technical difficulties can be overcome. (Witness the imaginative solution of the over the side work platforms to overcome the multiple problems of the 20 degree list, the oil slicked decks, and the danger of falling containers.)

      What was really missing was any political will to do anything.

    • Kaplan 11.6

      I suspect Key, Joyce and their advisors spent at least 24 hours with their fingers crossed and eyes closed rocking back and forth chanting ‘make it go away, make it go away…’

  12. randal 12

    Too much fudge and cheese TS. The nats just couldn’t be bothered getting off their butts. They think because its their “TURN” that they can do what they like but szomehow reality bites when you least expect it.

  13. rod 13

    It looks like the Tory spin and bullshit brigade are working overtime here.

    • felix 13.1

      Bailing hard, but still sinking.

    • Andrei 13.2

      Like Mr Phil (can’t even handle a shovel) Goff would have donned his superman suit and sorted it in five minutes flat?

      Why didn’t I realize this before?

      • Kaplan 13.2.1

        Irrelevant Andrei. It’s Key and Joyce that were the ones asleep at the wheel, that’s what the general public saw. As evidenced here: ‘Rena debacle hurting National’.
        Sure it’s not a KO but I bet it hurts like hell.

        • Colonial Viper 13.2.1.1

          Sure it’s not a KO but I bet it hurts like hell.

          Still a couple of rounds left to go on this one. Reading online reports, the Rena is likely too far gone to be saved – esp if the weather turns truly bad.

          The worst is yet to come and both Key and Joyce will find themselves tarred and feathered.

      • Jenny 13.2.2

        Talking about supermen, could tsmithfield be hiding a super hero alter-ego behind that ridiculous pseudonym?

        tsmithfield’s secret identity revealed?

        In his ongoing campaign of cover up and misinformation,

        Will he succeed?

        Stay tuned!

  14. trucker 14

    Re Awanuia.

    The Awanuia left Auckland with it’s tanks full, and sailed north to Marsden Point to discharge suffiecient oil to make room for the total tonnage on board the Rena. When it arrived in Tauranga the pumps on board the Rena were not ready to pump oil off the ship,

    On that basis it is irrelevant whether it should have been there sooner, or whether 2 Lancer boats were available (in addition to the two owned by MSA and not used)

    I have no idea why a GPS track shows the Awanuia as not reaching Marsden Point, and there have been no reports of a major oil spill in the north. It is fair to assume that the GPS tracks are wrong or incomplete

    • Draco T Bastard 14.1

      I have no idea why a GPS track shows the Awanuia as not reaching Marsden Point…

      Well, the obvious reason is because it never got there.

      It is fair to assume that the GPS tracks are wrong or incomplete

      No, it’s fair to assume that we’re being lied to specifically about the ships need to go to Marsden point to unload.

      • trucker 14.1.1

        No, it’s fair to assume that we’re being lied to specifically about the ships need to go to Marsden point to unload.

        I don’t understand any need to lie, or why anybody would.

        In any case they weren’t ready to pump when the Awanuia arrived.

        [cheers trucker. you encouraged me to go and double-check Jackel’s work. The GPS track looks like the Awanuia just turned around but, in fact, there’s a 9 hour gap in the records. Maybe if they had got salvors from anywhere but the furthest place on earth the pumping could have begun earlier. Eddie]

        • Colonial Viper 14.1.1.1

          In any case they weren’t ready to pump when the Awanuia arrived.

          Maritime NZ needed to have boots on deck on the Rena at 8am Wednesday morning, ensuring the crew was getting the bunker fuel ready for offloading.

          It didn’t so it wasn’t.

        • lprent 14.1.1.2

          It wasn’t a GPS record because GPS tracks are not broadcast as part of anything and there is no ‘vessel patrol’ in the way that there is for aircraft.

          I’d guess (with a really high likelyhood of being right) that Jackel is referring to a AIS class A transponder broadcasting the GPS in a NMEA RMC packet.

          The maximum effective range for those under normal circumstances is about 48 nautical miles from the transmission point.

          So all that was required was that there was no shore based receiving station that reports to one of the global AIS sites that I’d guess he was reading the data from off the net. I don’t think that there is full coverage on any of the systems heading up to Whangerei (and usually those land based systems are (to put it kindly) somewhat inaccurate).

          Basically don’t take anything from the net as being accurate unless you know where the holes in coverage are.

  15. Herodotus 15

    Something I have not read about yet. So someone out there maybe able to help. What is the depth of the reef at high and low tides?
    And is it possable that there is capability for a ship to steer a course over the reef and have sufficient clearance an dfor this to have occurred previously?
    If the answers to any of these or both questions is yes. Then where does that leave the port authority? as if this has occurred on a semi regular frequency then otheres may be complicit with this massive environmental tragedy, and potential to legal claims.
    Just a random thought that maybe best treated as rubbish- but you never know !!!

    • RedLogix 15.1

      And is it possable that there is capability for a ship to steer a course over the reef and have sufficient clearance an dfor this to have occurred previously?

      Doubt it …or the damn thing would have floated off in a high tide anytime in the first day or two.

      • Herodotus 15.1.1

        Of course plan logic. Thanks I can sleep easily now especially if the boyos from the valley win then we all can learn to sign Tom Jones songs !!!
        But with all this at least there is one thing I believe will come out of this event – NZ tax payers will suffer in picking up most of the costs, all bar $11m or so 🙁 just another bailout !!!!!
        Imagine insured for $1b (US$) and only having to cough up a few million in NZ$ almost makes it not worth claiming !!!
        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10758930

  16. Jenny 16

    On the Nation today Nick Smith summed up the government’s attitude to major oil spill disasters.

    “little matters what happens in the aftermath”

    Environment Minister Nick Smith

    Nick Smith is the National Government’s Minister for the Environment!?!!

  17. Reading yesterday’s postings on this thread I see there is still some conflating going on of the two different stages of the disaster response. Each stage has different issues – between the grounding of the Rena (or any ship) and the arrival of experts we are on our own. It is up to us to have a proper initial respsonse.
    So initial response is stage one (and that’s up to us) and then there is stage two where the salvors/international experts arrive (see my posting yesterday). Each stage, as Eddie correctly points out, can then be viewed in terms of capacity and execution as it relates to that needs of that stage.
     
    There is no reason why we shouldn’t have the capacity to launch an adequate first response. To say that this is hindsight bias (“I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon”) is just bollocks. For most of us, we have never had to consider the implications of a grounding, it isn’t our job. But some of us can see what we would do if it was our job and we wonder why those who we paid to think about these things didn’t!
    And now we will have to pay for their inaction.
     
    In view of the obvious failure to respond, and to cover their own arses, the government wants us to believe that because of the required capacity to meet the needs/processes of stage two are so specialised we cannot expect to have them in house AND THAT explains why we could, and did not, respond quickly to the grounding.
    I.e. the capacity required for stage two explains execution failure in stage one. Which is not true.

  18. @ Eddie

    I rechecked the GPS myself and it looks like the records cease for 9 hours. Presumably, it went up to Marsden Point and headed back during this time.

    Or it sat in the water waiting for orders. You might note that the draft did not change during that time.

    I would personally like to have an answer about this. Vessels can turn off AIS to attempt to be invisible but since they can still be seen by radar the absence of an AIS signal would highlight them as unusual and worthy of investigation.

    I believe commercial ships are required by international law to use AIS to transmit their positions at all times.

    • KJT 18.1

      AIS has a range of 15 to 30 miles.

      Ships are only routinely tracked by radar close to some main ports.

      The only vessels which turn off their AIS are the Navy.

      Awanuia may have discharged into the shore tanks in Auckland?

      • lprent 18.1.1

        Class A have a longer range than the Class B AIS. But they don’t have a good signal cutoff because of the frequencies in use. In the right circumstances you can get signals from a hundred nautical miles if they get the right propagation circumstances. But usually the main restriction is the receiving antenna.

        You can only rely on AIS Class A to about 30NM

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