Rena Disaster: Interim report released citing combination of factors

The Rena pictured on 13 January on the Astrolabe Reef

The first interim report into the grounding of the 230metre containership, MV Rena, on the Astolabe Reef near Tauranga, off the East Coast of New Zealand has been released today.

The incident occurred at 2.14am on 15 October 2011, and is New Zealand's biggest environmental disaster, an as yet incomplete recovery operation has cost over $130million, killed over 2000 sea creatures, and the master and another crew member have been charged by the New Zealand authorities in regard to the incident.

The Rena remained intact for a period after the incident, with authorities taking over a month to get the oil offloaded, after several major spills occurred. The ship broke in two in one storm, with the stern section subsequently sinking, and now the bow only remains above water on the reef.

Although the report does not produce any conclusions, findings or recommendations, it would seem that the grounding was caused by a combination of factors, including the ships course over the ground being different by about 2degrees from the gyroscopic compass, due to a set or current running on the coast.

A decision seems to have been made to cut the corner on the normal approach to Tauranga in order to meet a deadline of 0300hrs to pick up a pilot for entry into Tauranga. The ships master was on the bridge at the time of the grounding, there is no reference to him being incapacitated in any way as was alluded to in some media reports. The ship's progress was being plotted manually, however a plot which should have been made at 0200 was made after the grounding, due to the fact that the master was looking at the chart at the time.

Rena - aground on Astrolabe Reef, Tauranga in calm water in the first few days of the grounding
Dudley Clemens

The ship struck the reef at 17 knots 14 minutes later. Had that plot been made on the chart, in the correct position it would have been readily apparent that a terrain closure was imminent.

The media commentary released by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission has this morning set out facts of the accident that have been able to be verified to date but does not contain analysis of why events happened as they did or say what could change to help prevent a recurrence. These matters will be covered in the Commission’s final inquiry report.

Today’s report describes how the Rena left Napier and deviated from its intended course as it headed to a 3.00am meeting with the Tauranga pilot boat. The report details how the ship was navigated, including the use of its autopilot, GPS positions, and charts. At 1.50am, the report says, the Rena was on a direct track for Astrolabe Reef.

MV Rena grounded on Astrolabe Reef, Tauranga. She is beam on to four metre seas. The protruding section of the reef can be seen in the white water to the right of the shot
New Zealand Defence Force

'At about 0205 (2.05am) the master noticed an intermittent echo on the radar. The echo was about 2.6 nautical miles (4.8 kilometres) dead ahead of the Rena. The master showed the echo on the radar to the watch-keeping able-bodied seaman and they used binoculars to look through the windows of the bridge for the cause of the echo. They could not see anything, so they moved to the bridge wing to look from there. When again nothing could be seen, the master said he decided to plot the Rena’s position on the chart, so began to walk through the wheelhouse to the chartroom,' the report says.

'At the time of 0214 (2.14am) as the master made his way to the chartroom the Rena struck Astrolabe Reef while traveling at a speed of 17 knots (31.5 kilometres per hour).'

The interim report concludes by saying that the Commission 'is continuing to collate and verify information directly related to the grounding and is also pursuing several lines of inquiry of a wider systemic nature'.

The Commission’s inquiry is completely independent of Maritime New Zealand’s regulatory action, environmental enforcement action, or financial claims relating to the grounding. In order to encourage co-operation from accident participants the Commission’s reports, which are intended to help improve transport safety rather than to lay blame, may not be used in criminal or civil proceedings.

To read the full report http://www.taic.org.nz/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=%2fgg6fwRJgw0%3d&tabid=244&language=en-US!click_here

For a full gallery of images on the Rena incident http://www.maritimenz.govt.nz/Rena/gallery-salvage.asp!click_here


The Rena pictured on 7 March on the Astrolabe Reef