Twenty-six rescued after Torea grounding

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 42, December 2012

Twenty-six people were rescued off Ruapuke Island when the 78-foot fishing vessel Torea ran aground with up to 3,000 litres of diesel on board.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020
The Torea ran aground with up to 3,000 litres of diesel on board.

To raise the alarm, the skipper alerted Police by dialling 111 and then put out a mayday call. The vessel had struck rocks and was taking on water, and the skipper made the decision to run the vessel onto Ruapuke Island (which is near Stewart Island). This was done successfully, and all on board eventually disembarked without injury.

Assisting the Torea
The barge Patiki, assisted by Mana, attempts to refloat Torea.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020

The initial response to the grounding, which was coordinated by the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand, was provided by five fishing vessels in the area, two Coastguard vessels, and three winchcapable helicopters. However, given all on board were safe and well, the response was scaled down and the Bluff Coastguard vessel ferried passengers and crew back to Bluff.

The next issue was how to deal with the fuel on board. Environment Southland’s Regional On-Scene Commander (ROSC) Dallas Bradley instructed those on scene to close the fuel tank breathers, which is a temporary measure to ensure no fuel can leak out in the short term.

Environment Southland deputy harbourmaster Lyndon Cleaver said the skipper’s foresight in grounding the vessel in shallow, relatively sheltered waters played a big part in the salvage.

“This made it much easier to get divers onto the vessel to ensure it was secure. Residents on Ruapuke Island were understandably nervous about the possibility of a spill, so to be able to do that quickly and with a minimum of fuss was great.”

However, the water’s depth meant the refloating of the Torea wasn’t without its challenges.

“It wasn’t quite deep enough to attach the flotation bags in the normal way, but we got there in the end.”

The Torea was towed back to Bluff with only minimal spillage. This is an excellent result – from the fact nobody was injured to the swift and expert response from the ROSC.

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