Officials say 350 tonnes of oil may have leaked from the 775ft (236m) (Liberianian-flagged) Rena, which ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef off the port of Tauranga, New Zealand By comparison with an oil tanker, the amount of oil on board the Rena is small. Its total consignment is believed to be 1,700 tonnes, and operations to pump what remains out of the tanks are ongoing. In contrast, the Prestige tanker wrecked on the Galician coast in 2002 leaked an estimated 76,000 tonnes. Nevertheless, even a small amount of oil can affect wildlife if it comes ashore in the wrong place.
The authorities are asking questions of the Rena’s captain as to how he came to crash into a well-known reef. In time, they may raise familiar questions over the flags of convenience system that effectively allows international shipping to operate without a host government having to take responsibility. Weather conditions are expected to deteriorate over the next 24-48 hours, increasing fears the ship might break up, leaking all 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil on board and shedding its cargo…Clumps of heavy oil have washed up on the beaches of Mt Maunganui and the nearby community of Papamoa and are expected to reach Tauranga port and beaches south to Maketu. About 200 people are involved in the salvage operation, while 300 military personnel are on stand-by to clean up beaches. “People are angry that this could have happened on our doorstep and it could really ruin one of the best beaches around,” one local man, Jim Kohu, told Reuters. A spokesman for the WWF, Bob Zuur, told the BBC that the oil represents “potentially a huge tragedy” for wildlife in the popular tourist area.The owners of the ship, Greece-based Costamare Inc, have not given an explanation for the grounding, but said they were “co-operating fully with local authorities” to minimise any damage.
Excerpt, Richard Black, Oil spill disaster New Zealand’s ‘worst in decades’ BBC News, Oct. 11, 2011