Monday, January 9, 2012

New Zealand braced for oil spill disaster as stricken container ship splits in two

A cargo ship grounded off the New Zealand coast since October has split in two, spilling sea containers and debris and sparking fears of a fresh oil spill, maritime officials said.

The wreck of the Greek-owned Rena was described as New Zealand's worst maritime environmental disaster even before the rear section of the ship, lashed by pounding seas, broke away yesterday.

The ship previously spilled heavy fuel oil that fouled pristine North Island beaches and killed up to 20,000 seabirds, and despite salvage efforts nearly 400 tons of oil remain onboard.

Maritime officials said the front section of the wreck remains stuck in its original position, but the stern section slipped at least 100ft away from the bow and is 'moving significantly,' pounded by 19ft swells.

The storm that split the vessel will continue for another three to four days, Maritime New Zealand spokesman Ross Henderson said. Read More