Rena owner to pay $38m in clean-up costs

10/3/2012

New Zealand has reached a multi-million dollar deal with the owner of the Rena, the containership ship that ran aground off the country’s North Island, spilling fuel oil and containers as it broke up.

Daina Shipping, a subsidiary of Greece-based company Costamare Shipping, has agreed to pay up to NZ$38 million (US$31.5m) towards clean-up costs.

The Filipino captain of the Rena recently issued a public apology for the catastrophe and for trying to cover up his role.

Mauro Balomaga was deported after serving half of a seven-month jail term following the vessel’s grounding on the Astrolabe reef near the port of Tauranga on 5 October.

Balomaga admitted taking a shortcut on the way to the port, but said he was surprised that the Rena ploughed into the reef — even though it had showed up on the ship’s radar 15 minutes before the grounding.

Under the agreement Daina Shipping will pay compensation of NZ$27.6m for clean-up costs, a New Zealand government statement said.

It will also pay NZ$10.4m if the company ends up leaving part of the wreck in place, reflecting reduced salvage costs.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said the company had "negotiated constructively" towards a deal which represented "the best possible outcome for the people of New Zealand".

So far the incident has cost NZ$47m, the government claimed.

Konstantinos Zacharatos, of Daina Shipping, called the deal “a vital step forward in our progressive resolution of all the issues”, in a statement with Maritime New Zealand.

Brownlee added: “These agreements allow New Zealand to move on from what was, from an environmental standpoint, the worst maritime disaster in our history." 

Ongoing salvage operations have been hampered by high winds and swells, but the project remains on schedule to be completed by the end of the year.

With the arrival of a crane barge and a specialised team of divers from the US, underwater salvage operations are expected to gather pace, said Maritime NZ.

The crane barge – which operates from deeper water at the aft end of the bow section – can raise significantly larger pieces of steel (up to 40 tonnes) than helicopters.