Business, Finance & Economics

Oil from stricken ship reaches NZ beaches (PHOTOS)


An oil slick is seen coming from the grounded vessel Rena, on October 9, 2011 in Tauranga, New Zealand.


Ross Brown

In New Zealand, oil from a container ship that ran aground on a reef has started washing up on the shore of the Bay of Plenty.

The BBC reported that “fist-sized clumps” of oil have been discovered on Mount Maunganui beach on New Zealand’s North Island.

The Liberian container ship, the MV Rena, hit the Astrolabe Reef last Wednesday, and has since created an oil slick about five kilometers long.

Heavy rain and winds are forecast to hit the area, one of the country's top tourist destinations. A tanker is reportedly moored alongside the vessel to offload 2,000 tons of oil.

But high winds forced the work to be halted after the removal of only 10 tons.

With a storm on the way, Maritime New Zealand is working to contain the pollution and secure the hull of the ship. It said in a statement: "The top priority is to first remove the oil, then lighten the vessel by removing the containers, and finally, move the ship off the reef."

If the ship breaks up, the fuel aboard the vessel will be released into an area that is home to a variety of sea life, including whales, dolphins, seals and penguins.

The news website said Maritime New Zealand has repeated warnings for residents to stay away from affected areas. "Please stay away from the water. Do not touch the oil or attempt to clean up the oil as it is toxic," the warnings say.

Prime Minister John Key saying "serious questions" over the incident must be answered.