The popular belief that it is only the cargo holding the Rena bow section on Astrolabe reef is being confirmed by more movement now that most of the containers have been removed.
In its weekly report, Maritime New Zealand says the fore section is now subject to much more movement, with the whole structure appearing to be in motion as a result of the impact of the swell.
The Rena bow section as on June 1. Photo: MNZ
The majority of the No 3 hold has gone completely. Parts of it have been removed by gas cutting, with the remainder collapsing due to the swell, and all the hatch lids have been removed.
The deterioration of the fore section continues as a result of strong winds later in the week.
Working conditions for divers were described as very challenging earlier in the week with congealed milk fat floating on the sea making surfaces very greasy.
Relatively calm weather conditions at the beginning of the week allowed good progress to be made on salvage activities before the strong winds came.
Containers lodged underwater on the starboard side of the fore section are described as being very difficult to remove.
Meanwhile, the Braemar Howells team expects to begin recovery of containers from the sea floor in about a week’s time, weather permitting.
Big seas have caused delays, but the team’s divers have managed to pre-rig more than half a dozen containers in relatively shallow water, so that work can begin on hoisting them to the surface as soon as sea conditions are calm enough, says operations manager Neil Lloyd.
He says that it’s highly satisfying for Braemar and the Rena owners to reach this point after eight months of concerted efforts, including sidescan sonar surveys of a large area of the Bay of Plenty coast, to pinpoint the location of containers.
The coastal area was divided into a number of sections and methodically grid-searched in what has been an often difficult and painstaking process, hampered by weather conditions, says Neil. An ROV (remote vehicle) has been used to help investigate the targets, some of which were eliminated on close inspection.
The submerged containers will be rigged with slings and lifted onto the barge ST 60 before they are brought to shore for processing. “But even now the sonar-equipped vessel is continuing to search for more containers on the seabed,” says Neil.
Shore clean-up operations are also continuing on local islands and beaches, especially on the Coromandel at places such as Sailor’s Grave. Some pieces of container have also been recovered from Waihi Beach.
The number of containers recovered and brought ashore stands at 932. Excellent progress has been made at the wreck site over recent weeks with over 100 containers recovered.