Oil spill mop up continues

2 Dec 2015, 12:22 PM

A 40-strong team is continuing to make good progress cleaning up the remnants of an oil spill into Whangarei Harbour, Northland’s Deputy Harbourmaster says.

Chidambaram (CD) Surendran says while the bulk of an estimated several tonnes of oil which escaped from a vessel at Northport had been recovered yesterday, clean-up crews had been mobilised again early today.

"That's not unusual with a spill like this and is largely to ensure any remains of the oil which had not been collected or was missed yesterday, including any which had come ashore in the Marsden Cove area, does not cause further issues today."

Mr Surendran says minimising any environmental impacts from the spill, particularly on spots of special significance to the local community, remains a key goal of the response team.

At this stage, officials were satisfied they had sufficient trained responders, volunteers and resourcing to tackle the clean-up and any recovery work which needed to be done without issuing a wider call for volunteers.

"We will monitor the situation closely throughout the rest of the day, especially early this afternoon as high tide about 1.15pm could potentially allow any oily residues or traces left behind on port structures, the beach or rocks back into the sea."

Mr Surendran says the response team is taking all possible precautions to prevent or reduce the risk of that happening.

"Fortunately the risk of such 're-oiling' (a recognised threat in spills) is lessening as time goes by and the oil weathers."

He says the clean-up work includes several hundred metres of Marsden Cove shoreline (which remains closed to the public in the interim) and upstream of Northport where the spill took place.

Meanwhile, the vessel allegedly responsible for the spill has been detained by Maritime New Zealand and will only be able to leave the area subject to meeting a number of strict conditions the maritime body has imposed, including approval from Regional Harbourmaster Jim Lyle.

The spill is believed to have been caused by an on-board systems failure that allowed fuel oil to escape.

"The problem was identified and contained yesterday and measures are in place to prevent any more oil escaping."