Rena: new dangerous goods found

An investigation is underway to find out how an additional 21 containers of dangerous goods onboard the Rena was not declared on the ship’s manifest.

The 21 containers of Cryolite are in addition to the 11 containers of dangerous goods already declared.


Sea Tow 60 at work alongside Rena removing containers from its deck. Photo: Maritime New Zealand.

“For reasons still unknown, the contents of these 21 containers were not declared as dangerous goods in the original manifest provided to Maritime New Zealand, and as required under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code,” says MNZ director Catherine Taylor.

“While experts advise that the contents of these containers are considered low risk in their current state, submerged below decks in the vessel’s holds, MNZ is carrying out a thorough investigation as to why these dangerous goods were not declared as required under maritime legislation and whether this constitutes a breach of the law.”

The manifest records the product as ‘Cover Bath Material’ and ‘Pure Tapped Bath Material’.

It is a by-product of the aluminium smelting process, which is considered low risk unless ingested or inhaled directly in its dry powdered form.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company is also advising this material is known as cryolite.
MNZ was told about the 21 containers on Tuesday by insurers acting for the charterers of the Rena – MSC.

“Since learning of this new information, MNZ has spent the last few days working extensively with various scientific, environmental and health experts to accurately assess the risk posed by cryolite to the marine environment and to people,” says Catherine.

“We have also been given a strong assurance by MSC that there are no other potentially dangerous goods onboard that have not been declared.”

Scientific advice received by MNZ confirms the material presents a low risk in its current state.

Twenty of the containers in question are located in hold three, which suffered considerable damage in the grounding. The other is in hold five.

This means they are below deck and inaccessible, under containers above deck.

Of these, 17 containers are understood to be submerged, but all are likely to have been submerged at some time as the ship has moved.

There are 490 tonnes of the product onboard, packed in one tonne bulk bags inside the containers. 

The bags have a polyethylene liner and are constructed of polypropylene, so are water resistant, but not water tight. 

Water is likely to have seeped into the bags within the container.

“Expert advice is that the cryolite onboard Rena is considered to be of low risk given that the product is only slightly soluble in water, so is expected to dissolve slowly.

“Any dissolved material will be diluted and dispersed very rapidly, reducing the potential effects further.”

Cryolite is considered dangerous to humans in its dry form if ingested or inhaled.

It is used as a flux in aluminium smelting and as a pesticide in commercial horticulture.

The salvors working onboard Rena have been advised the material is on board and are taking all necessary safety precautions to continue their work.

“While this late notification is frustrating, it’s simply another issue Rena has thrown at us that we have to get on and deal with.

“It’s the typical nature of salvage operations that these sorts of issues will come up, and our plans remain flexible enough to respond to them as they occur,” says Catherine.

“This development also justifies the safety precautions we have been taking all along and the advice that we have been giving to the public regarding the importance of respecting the exclusion zone around Rena and not touching or handling containers or their contents.

“We have trained professionals equipped and ready to deal with any hazardous substances should they be lost from the vessel or come ashore.”




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6 Comments

im sick

Posted on 27-11-2011 21:01 | By Capt_Kaveman

of this trained professionals who seem to piss around a lot and not getting the work done the way i see it they have 1 month left anything over that and they are just sponging it for what its worth

A possibility

Posted on 26-11-2011 12:47 | By tibs

As Rena was heading up the coast, and I think Tauranga was to be her last port of call, maybe the cryolite was a byproduct of the Aluminium Smelter at Bluff. It may not have been coming into the country at all....

Posted on 25-11-2011 15:03 | By whatsinaname

more than one person will go for a skate on this one............... the exporter, the importer, the shipping owner, lots of people. do the lot of them. and this wont be the only ship or time it will happen. slack slack slack.

I hope there is a prosecution

Posted on 25-11-2011 13:45 | By Writerman

This is actually quite serious. An attempt was obviously made to get these in without being noticed. You have to ask why that might have been. It is worth mentioning that cryolite is actually sodium hexafluoroaluminate. It is most likely that some of our growers were intending to use this stuff as a pesticide on food destined for your tables. It contains 2.5% fluoride in a somewhat unstable form. It would be nice to know who it was destined for so we could avoid their produce.

at the point

Posted on 25-11-2011 12:24 | By traceybjammet

at the point when dodgey dealings start becoming apparant time for the owners and leasees of the boat to be held liable and if they dont the other ships they own and lease will have to be looked at much closer surely

more charges

Posted on 25-11-2011 12:19 | By tonyb1

Well thats not good, wonder if the crew rsponsible will be charged ? not really a good situation for a salvage crew entering the ship not knowing what they are dealing with

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