Rena Grounding Update: Captain Took Short Cuts
A recent investigation into the grounding of the Rena cargo ship has found that the captain was actually taking a short cut at the time of the incident that spilled hundreds of tons of fuel oil into New Zealand waters.
Transport officials discovered that the Rena crew was attempting to meet a deadline to reach port. In this effort, they sailed closer to the coast than planned in order to save time. This eventually resulted in the vessel running aground on a reef near Tauranga in October 2011. This accident has come to be described as New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster.
The report by the New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission says the captain and his navigating officer made several course changes as they tried to get to their port by a deadline of 0300 local time, according to BBC News. About two hours prior to that, the port authorities at Tauranga warned they needed to make best speed possible to avoid changes in the tides which would delay them by several hours.
The captain then agreed to change course to pass within 1.25 miles of the Astrolabe reef, rather than the authority recommended 4.8km. Around nine minutes before the accident, the captain reportedly noticed an echo on the radar screen, but continued on the course while trying to see something in the water, the report says.
The captain and navigating officer are awaiting sentencing scheduled for May 25th after pleading guilty to mishandling the vessel and altering ship documents after the crash. New Zealand's government last month estimated the cost of the cleanup at US$108m. Most of the costs have been met by insurers.