Monday, January 9, 2012

Container Ship and Bulk Cargo Carrier Meet their Final Fate in Storms

Severe Weather Accounts for Two Ships Over the Weekend
Shipping News Feature

NEW ZEALAND – AUSTRALIA – The tempestuous weather experienced in the region over past weeks has finally claimed the MV Rena, the container ship which became stranded on a reef off the coast of North Island back in October and as news came in of her hull breaking open a similar fate befell a bulk vessel the MV Typhoon which broke its moorings off Christmas Island and foundered on rocks.

The Rena, complete with over 1,500 tonnes of fuel oil plus a cargo of some 1,368 containers became grounded making it potentially New Zealand’s worst oil pollution disaster. Since the accident fuel has leaked steadily, but not apparently in huge quantities although the death toll for wild bird numbers over 2,000 so far and authorities are bracing themselves for a major clean up.

Of equal concern now that the two halves of the hull have separated are the containers, thirty two of which were travelling as hazardous goods and four of which contain ferrosilicon which produces large quantities of inflammable hydrogen when in contact with water. Numerous containers have washed from the wreck and are being tracked by marine agencies as far as is possible and Government website Maritime New Zealand is publishing regular updates.

The potential for damage is of course huge with loaded containers often having intermediate buoyancy and therefore floating away unseen sometimes to remain a hidden hazard to shipping for months. The Rena is flagged in Liberia and owned by Greek operator Costamare which has made no official public comment since its original statement.

In another incident a bulk tanker loading phosphate over three days broke from her moorings early yesterday morning and ran aground on nearby rocks leaving her fifteen man crew to literally leap into the water for their lives. By some miracle all the men were rescued despite the stormy seas and the ship immediately started to break up spilling both cargo and fuel into the water.

The Tycoon is registered in Panama and was loading at a jetty owned by Christmas Island Phosphate which has made no official comment so far. The Island is a dive centre and is home to Christmas Island National Park, an internationally renowned haven for marine life and seabird causing local businesses to express their concern as to the future if pollution levels rise as expected.

Phosphate is harmless in small quantities acting as a marine fertiliser but high concentrations would be harmful to fish and shellfish populations plus the obvious danger to birds and other creatures from a major oil spillage.

Photo: The MV Tycoon strikes rocks adjacent to the loading jetty.