Minimising Rena’s long-term impact a priority

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 41, September 2012

A major aerial survey of the Bay of Plenty coast has been carried out to assess the lasting impact from Rena debris.
Butterfat from Rena
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
A recovered butterfat package waits for processing.

A fixed-wing aircraft with a GPS tagging camera flew over an area from East Island on the East Cape, up along the Western Bay and Coromandel coasts as far as Great Barrier Island.

Former Braemar Howells operations manager Simon Valentine was on board for the five-hour flight, which also took in offshore islands such as Mayor and Motiti. “We were able to enter almost every bay and cove in perfect debris spotting conditions,” he said. “We now have to analyse the hi-res photos taken to complete a report, but what we saw was pleasing – no significant debris.”

Rena wreckage
A Resolve salvor uses a torch to cut away a section of Rena’s bow.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020

A fast response vessel was working the Coromandel coast towards the end of August, with divers used to swim ashore and remove debris from inaccessible bays and rocky coves between Hahei and Whangamata.

Braemar Howells clean-up teams have had a good month with tonnes of debris recovered – including plastic beads mixed with smaller flotsam from Matakana Island, Waihi Beach and the Coromandel during August alone.

Cutting and lifting operations have been progressing well, with salvors Resolve lifting close to 70 tonnes of steel from the forward section of the Rena wreck in just one day using a Bell 214 helicopter. The total material removed from the forward section now exceeds 200 tonnes, and the focus continues to be the reduction and removal of the forward section. The barge Kapua has been busy ferrying scrap from the wreck to Tauranga for recycling.

Recycling the spoils

The Braemar Howells recovery team earlier recovered 167 tonnes of butterfat from the Rena wreck and repackaged it for recycling into biodiesel.

Braemar Howells operations manager Neil Lloyd said that re-packaging the butterfat was a tricky task because the product was in bladders that had ‘ballooned’ out of shape when the cardboard boxes they were in disintegrated.

“We designed equipment that allowed us to squeeze the semi-soft material into one metre containers holding one tonne each. It was like juggling with jelly.

“Without the efforts of our team, including distressed cargo, port and waste specialists, and our local environmental partner, this would have been dumped into a landfill site. Instead, the processed butterfat will go towards powering vehicles,” he said.

Mr Lloyd said that over the course of the Rena recovery project, some large quantities of cargo have been recycled. “It’s a small environmental coup to be able to recycle such big quantities of a cargo, which at one stage was earmarked as waste.

“It should be noted that these efforts are ongoing – we are committed to maximising every possible recycling opportunity.

“The owners and insurers of Rena are pleased with the quantities of material we have been able to re-use or recycle,” Mr Lloyd said.

At the beginning of July, Braemar Howells had 140 containers of recovered cargo on the books. “We’ve managed to recycle 60 containers out of that – including steel scrap, timber and milk fat. In one week alone, 41 container-loads of steel scrap have been sent for recycling.”

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