The salvage of Rena, which ran aground on a reef off Tauranga, New Zealand, in 2011, has cost NZD500 million (USD317.2 million).
This makes the container vessel the second most expensive shipwreck in history after the USD1 billion Costa Concordia salvage operation, owner Daina Shipping Co testified at hearings in Tauranga.
After four years of salvage operations, Daina Shipping has applied to the Bay of Plenty Council to leave the remains of the 47,000-tonne vessel on the Otaiti (Astrolabe) Reef, arguing that the wreck is now benign and worthy of national heritage status.
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“Heritage experts agree on the high historical significance of the grounding and that leaving some physical remains provides options for recognition of the place by future generations,” testified lawyer Konstantinos Zacharatos, representing Daina Shipping. Zacharatos also said the company had apologised to local Maori communities and worked with them.
“We are now four years from the grounding and we are still here, still working, trying to honour our promise to provide a responsible resolution of the incident,” he said.
Crown lawyers, however, argued that further removal of the wreck was necessary, citing the bow sections and debris (greater than 1 m). The Crown is also calling for the removal of entanglement hazards and copper less than 30 m below the surface “to address safety, natural character, and ecological issues”.
The lawyers also argued for more “robust and enforceable measures” against contamination and ecological impacts.
Rena hit the reef at almost full speed on 5 October 2011, spilling containers and more than 300 tonnes of heavy fuel. Its captain and second officer were tried, sentenced, and imprisoned.
The final report into New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster, released by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission in December last year, found that bad management by the master, crew, and ultimately the ship management company, were the main factors behind the wreck.
Maori communities are divided on whether the wreck should remain, with some accepting cash payments as “restitution” in exchange for dropping their opposition.
Hearings into the owners’ submission to leave the remaining wreckage on the reef began on 7 September and will run until 2 October.