Officers charged following New Zealand containership grounding

renamicroTwo officers of the Costamare-owned 3,032 containership Rena face charges laid by Maritime New Zealand (MNZ). The 236 m ship struck the Astrolabe Reef, near Tauranga Harbor, around 2.20 am, October 5, resulting in what Environment Minister Nick Smith has called "New Zealand's most significant environmental maritime disaster."

Today, MNZ said that the second officer in charge of the navigational watch of the vessel is facing one charge laid by under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act (MTA) 1994, "for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk".He will appear in the Tauranga District Court tomorrow morning (Thursday 13 October).

This morning, the Master of the vessel appeared in the Tauranga District Court facing the same charge. He was remanded on bail until October 19, on the condition he surrender his passport. His name has been suppressed.

The s65 charge carries a maximum penalty of NZ$10,000, or a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months.


Today, MNZ reports that Rena has suffered substantial structural failure, with a crack appearing in the number three cargo hold on the starboard side. This has been caused by the movement of the vessel as the stern, which has remained afloat, shifting with the waves, while the front part of the ship remains stuck on the reef.

There is a concern that the stern of the vessel may break away. The salvors have three tugs mobilized either to hold the stern on the reef while further effort is made to remove the oil, or to tow the stern to shallow water where they will remove the oil. Naval architects are working on possible scenarios. Maori representatives are also involved in advising on any cultural issues regarding moving or sinking the ship.

A number of containers have now come off the vessel. Those remaining continue to move, making it extremely dangerous for salvage crews to work on board. Six vessels have been mobilizeded to intercept the drifting debris in the water.

MNZ says there will be substantial oil on the beaches, in the water and on the foreshore. This is expected to result in around 10,000 tonnes of sandy waste. There are 20 teams on the beaches, comprising about 250 people, cleaning up the oil. Four vessels are in the harbor to deal with any oil that may enter the area.

There have been 36 field teams out working on the wildlife response. The Wildlife Response Center has 41 birds in its care. Two hundred dead birds have so far been collected. Three seals are also at the wildlife facility, with two more on their way.

Costamare Inc., parent company of Daina Shipping Co., registered owner of the Liberian-flagged Rena, said earlier this week that it is "cooperating fully with local authorities and every effort is being made to control and minimize the environmental consequences of this incident."

Costamare said that ABS has been engaged by vessel's technical managers Ciel Shipmanagement S.A. and through the ABS Emergency Response Service (RRDA) is providing technical support by monitoring and verifying the ship's strength and stability adequacy. n.

Daina Shipping Co. has contracted Svitzer Salvage BV, one of the world's leading salvage companies and signed a Lloyd's Open Form Agreement (LOF).

Costamare says the Rena was built in 1990, and has a deadweight of 47,230. At the time of the incident the RENA was carrying 1,351 containers. The operator is Costamare Shipping Company S.A. (a dedicated containership operator with over 35 years of experience in the shipping industry), while Ciel Shipmanagement S.A is the technical manager. Both companies are members of the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association.

The  Liberian Registry says it is continuing its investigation of the incident and is working cooperatively with the maritime authorities and emergency response teams in New Zealand following the grounding.

The ship has been entered with the Liberian Registry since November 2010 when it was acquired by the current owners, who have a long-standing and reliable history with the Liberian Registry. It has been engaged in regular trading between Australia and New Zealand, and is understood to have been a regular caller at the port of Tauranga.

The Liberian Registry's specialist investigation team of marine experts is co-operating closely on site with the owners, local maritime authorities, and the salvage contractor Svitzer.

Prior to the deteriorating weather conditions, says the Liberian Registry, all efforts were focused on taking measures to limit pollution from the vessel's bunker tanks. These measures, which were approved by both the Liberian Registry and the New Zealand authorities, were taken in the best interests of the safety of the crew and response personnel and the environment.

Scott Bergeron, chief executive officer of the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry, says, "The casualty is a source of great regret to the Liberian Registry. Our sympathies are very much with the people of New Zealand. For the moment, the priority must be protection of the environment and of the interests of those whose livelihoods may be threatened. The registry will do everything in its power to help achieve those objectives. It will refrain from any attempt to apportion blame, or to attribute causation, until a full and proper inquiry has been carried out.

"Liberia will conclude an official investigation as soon as possible, using its extensive resources to establish the cause of the casualty. A full investigation report will be issued in due course, as is customary with any casualty involving a Liberian-flag ship. Liberia is rightly proud of its excellent safety record, which continues to be endorsed by independent port state control authorities around the world."

October 12, 2011

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