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Bunker Spill in New Zealand

oil slick
file photo: oil slick

Published Jun 8, 2015 11:20 AM by The Maritime Executive

Rain and high winds are creating problems for oil spill responders dealing with a heavy fuel oil spill in Tauranga Harbour in New Zealand’ North Island.

The oil spill occurred on April 27 when a ship was bunkering at the Port of Tauranga. Regional Council oil spill On Scene Commander Adrian Heays said severe weather was hampering oil retrieval. Some booms were proving ineffective in the high winds and heavy seas.

It appears that an oil line on a berthed ship caused the leak, and once the spill was spotted bunkering was stopped. Responders are currently working under the wharf to fix the leak.

“At this stage we don’t have any idea how much oil was lost. This means there could be oil coming ashore on beaches and on boats,” Heays said.

He said the spill occurred on an incoming tide, and the tide had now turned, which could mean the oil would be taken out to sea. So far four streams had been spotted.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council is assessing the situation, and the Department of Conservation is looking at any wildlife impacts.

So far, the vessel involved has not been named.

The Tauranga coast was affected by oil when the container ship Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef in 2011. At that time, a five kilometer (3.1 mile) oil slick threatened wildlife and the area’s rich fishing waters. 

In this case, bad weather also caused problems as it shifted the wreck causing another 130-350 tons of oil to leak out.