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Most Diesel Still Safely Aboard Stricken Ship

Date: 05 March, 2008 (1225hrs)

Most Diesel Still Safely Aboard Stricken Ship

Relieved authorities say an inspection today has revealed most of the diesel fuel carried by fishing boat grounded on a Far North reef remains on the vessel and is in no immediate danger of escaping into the sea.

Greatly improved weather conditions allowed members of an Auckland-based salvage team to earlier today board the stricken roughly 20-metre long commercial fishing vessel ‘Seawyf’ for the first time since it grounded on Fair Way Reef early yesterday.

Ian Niblock, the Northland Regional Council’s Regional Harbourmaster, says the steel-hulled ship remains stuck fast, listing to its port side, where it came to grief in bad weather about three nautical miles north of the Mangonui Harbour entrance.

Mr Niblock says despite damage to its hull in a number of places – and extensive flooding inside the hull – the largest two of its four fuel tanks are intact and in no imminent damage of rupturing. The two aft tanks are now estimated to hold about 1200 litres of oil each – a total of 2400 litres – and Mr Niblock says authorities will be looking to remove it from the vessel as soon as practicable.

He says today’s inspection had however shown an estimated 600 litres of diesel had escaped from two smaller fuel tanks in the vessel’s bow and was believed responsible for an oil slick that stretched for up to 2km yesterday before breaking up in the rough conditions.

“Fortunately, diesel is quite a light fuel and it appears that the diesel that did escape has broken up quite quickly with no obvious signs of any damage to the marine environment or wildlife.”

Small traces of residual diesel – apparently from the small bow tanks - are still leaking from the vessel today but are breaking up quickly and the Regional Council will continue to monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, Mr Niblock says it could take salvors a number of days to refloat the vessel itself, an operation which could prove difficult for a number of reasons including the exposed nature of the grounding site and the damage to the vessel’s hull.

“The salvage team is currently calculating how it can introduce buoyancy into the hull to help float the boat and will also be making inquiries to ascertain what tugs are available to help pull it off the reef. Fortunately, the Seawyf is not in any immediate danger of falling off the reef.”

Mr Niblock says the cause of the grounding will be investigated by Maritime New Zealand.


ENDS

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