Oil spill clean-up hailed a success

1 Dec 2015, 8:05 PM

An oil spill successfully tackled by a multi-agency response team in Whangarei Harbour today appears to have stemmed from a system failure aboard a cargo ship, Northland’s Regional Harbourmaster says. 

Jim Lyle says it now appears the spill from the vessel at Northport was larger than initially suspected, but despite as much as several tonnes of oil potentially having escaped, authorities were confident the bulk had been recovered tonight. 

That included some oil which had found its way ashore earlier today, washing up along several hundred metres of Marsden Cove beach, which he had closed to the public during the successful clean-up operation and which is expected to remain off limits overnight as a precaution. 

Mr Lyle says a very professional joint response by groups including the regional council, Northport, the Marsden Pt oil refinery and local emergency services could take the credit for a quick and efficient clean-up. 

“As of this evening we’re confident we’ve got the bulk of the oil both from the sea and off the beach.” 

He estimated more than 10,000 litres of water contaminated with oil had been recovered from the sea, as well as a quantity of oil, oiled material and debris from the shoreline. 

As evening falls, crews were working a staged approach to remove oil from the hull of the vessel identified as the source of the spill, as well as two other ships docked alongside it. 

The vessel allegedly responsible had been detained by Maritime New Zealand and would only be able to leave the area subject to meeting a number of strict conditions the maritime body has imposed. 

“Due to an onboard systems failure, fuel oil appears to have escaped through the ballast system,” Mr Lyle says. 

He says the ship’s crew and agents had been co-operating with authorities. 

“At this stage it is too early to say what – if any – enforcement action might be taken in the wake of the incident, however, irrespective, we will be attempting to recover the full cost of the oil spill response itself.” 

Mr Lyle says the situation will be monitored overnight and checks will be made early tomorrow for any residual oil or issues.