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June 2013

Accommodation Section to be Removed

A decision has been made by the owner and insurer of the Rena to remove the wreck’s submerged accommodation section.  The four storey block contained the crew quarters, galley, administration offices and living areas, as well as the bridge and navigational equipment.

This step has been taken in advance of any decision about whether to apply for a resource consent to leave part of the wreck on the seabed. As part of the ongoing consultation with the communities of the Bay of Plenty and with the Regional Council, concerns were raised about the possibility that the accommodation would degrade or collapse at some time in the future, and release debris that could wash up on the shoreline.

Captain John Owen of the Swedish Club explained the decision:  “Our environmental experts have not identified any environmentally harmful material in the accommodation block.  Any debris that might be released and eventually wash ashore would be picked up by the shoreline monitoring and clean-up process we have put in place.

“However, we understand that people do not want the uncertainty of not knowing when this might happen and how long it could go on for. Although there is a considerable cost to removing the accommodation section, we recognise the importance of minimising the effects on the community of the Rena grounding as much as we can.

“We appreciate that the accommodation section would have been of interest to recreational divers, and our initial approach was to consider leaving it as part of the wreck after making it safer for divers,” he said.

“However we could not tell how long it would stay in that condition before the effects of wave action and the strong currents caused it to deteriorate and become a hazard to their safety.”

The accommodation block is relatively, a much lighter structure than the hull of the Rena and has no direct contact with the reef itself. Therefore, there will be minimal risk of causing damage to the reef during the removal process.

Resolve Salvage & Fire will remove the accommodation block in two sections by means of oblique chain cutting parallel to the main deck. The operation is expected to take up to 80 days, including 40 days allowance for poor weather and sea conditions. Cutting is expected to begin in October following the arrival of an additional crane barge from Singapore.

Once each section is cut away, it will be lifted onto a third barge for transport to Port of Tauranga. Once in Port the sections will be dismantled for scrap and, where possible, recycling.

A team of smaller craft will be stationed at the reef to collect any debris released during the removal operation, to prevent material reaching the shore. During the dismantling phase steps will be in place to prevent any discharges into the environment.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chief Executive, Mary-Anne MacLeod, said she and her leadership team fully supported the decision.

“The removal of the accommodation block addresses a concern we had about when the contents of the block might escape and how they would be dealt with.  Its removal from the reef will greatly reduce the risk of further debris being released into the coastal environment.”

Resolve will begin preparing the accommodation block in August/September. In the meantime they will continue with the work to reduce the bow section where the ship ran aground near the highest part of the reef.  All of the bow section that was above the water line has now been removed and the aim is to reduce it down to at least 1 metre below the lowest tide mark.

Resolve is also working to recover container wreckage and other cargo from the debris field between the stern and bow sections, of which 650 tonnes has already been removed.

Debris from cargo hold four is being removed to allow access to two containers of plastic beads originally at the bottom of that hold.  Both containers have been located, in a damaged condition; one has been emptied completely and the other container is being worked on at present.  Dive surveys of cargo holds five and six will then be conducted to try and locate and identify the state of four other containers of interest.