NZ Races Against Time to Drain Oil From Beached Ship
Feb 10 2002 5:47AM
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand rescue workers were racing against the weather Sunday to drain a ship beached off the pristine coast of 450 tons of fuel oil.
More than 100 workers spent Sunday cleaning up large pools of heavy fuel oil already washed ashore from the Korean log ship grounded off the northern city of Gisborne, a popular swimming and surfing spot.
Between 25 to 40 tons of the oil are estimated to have leaked from a fuel tank that ruptured when the Panama-registered Jody F. Millennium hit a sandbar last week after dragging her anchor in swells of up to five meters (16.5 feet).
New Zealand Maritime Safety Authority (MAS) said Sunday it was hoped the oil had stopped leaking but officials were trying to drain an estimated 450 tons to avert the risk of more environmental damage.
"On the beach they have had graders and people with shovels just scooping it (oil) off the sand. It's so thick it doesn't soak in," MAS spokeswoman Helen Mojel told Reuters.
She said the MAS wanted the oil off the ship before Wednesday when the weather is forecast to deteriorate as winds turn to the southwest.
"If the southerly swell comes back we could have problems," MSA on-scene commander John Lee Richards told Television New Zealand.
Gisborne lies some 320 km (200 miles) north of Wellington, on the east coast of New Zealand's Northern Island.
A wildflife center had been set up to clean birds after a Department of Conservation survey showed that an estimated 75 red- and yellow-billed gulls had been splattered with oil, Mojel said.
The ship, operated by South Korea's Hyundai Merchant Marine Co, is also carrying 60 tonnes of light diesel and 20,000 tonnes of pine logs -- though about 50 of the logs had been washed off the ship when it grounded late on February 6.
The 160 meter, two-year-old vessel is owned by Japan's Soki Kissen Co Ltd and had been destined for South Korea.
Gisborne police closed the main city beach Friday.
Mojel said that the ship's owners had hired United Salvage from Sydney, Australia, to handle the vessel's rescue from the sandbar about 350 meters off Waikanae Beach though there would be no attempts to tug it to deeper water until all the oil had been removed.
As workers from the MSA and local councils shovelled beached oil into steel barrels, a C-130 Royal New Zealand Air Force Hercules arrived in Gisborne laden with extra equipment.
The consignment included inflatable barges, which will be used to ferry the oil from the ship to a New Zealand naval tanker.
If any of you have seen the photographs of Wellington on this site, you know what a beautiful place it is. My only question - if the ship was just two years old, what kind of safeties was it lacking that oil spilled that easily? I don't know, but it seems that double-hulled ships on sand wouldn't be that much of a problem. Reefs, I can understand, but sand?! I just hope the oil doesn't get to Wellington, that's really a beautiful place. On the other hand, I hear that most of NZ is pretty nice as well, so I hope they can get Gisborne looking nice again too...
Erstwhile, the "server is busy" so I cannot show you any of the wonderful pic.s of Wellington on this site.