Oil from a cargo ship that struck a reef off the coast of New Zealand last week has started to wash ashore on the popular Mount Maunganui beach today. The ship was going 17 knots when it crashed into a well documented coral reef and became stranded. The ship is now trailed by a three mile oil slick. Workers were furiously trying to extract any remaining oil from the ship before it was allowed to seep into the ocean but were thwarted by weather yesterday and forced to abandon the operation after removing only 11 tons of crude. As weather continues to worsen the oil slick is expanding and now officials are worried about more than oil aboard the ship — some of the cargo it is carrying is toxic as well.
Officials in New Zealand are furious and wondering how the ship managed to become lodged on the reef. “This is a ship that’s plowed into a well documented reef in calm waters in the middle of the night at 17 knots. So, somebody needs to tell us why that’s happened,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told reporters. Officials believe it will be two more days until the oil extraction effort continues and for now they have experts on board monitoring the ship’s vitals ready to call if it seems as if it is in danger of breaking apart. The stress of the reef on the ship could cause it to fracture, allowing all of the remaining oil to spill into the sea.
Apart from the oil, the ship is carrying hazardous chemicals like ferrosilicium, a metal alloy used in the creation of steel and cast iron, that are also in danger of spilling into the ocean. Today, fist-sized balls of crude oil began washing up on shore in New Zealand (on the beach shown above) and the country’s transport minister, Stephen Joyce, said that could continue for weeks. The country has hundreds of people standing by if a beach cleanup is necessary since the oil is getting dangerously close to delicate coastal estuaries. For now, officials are standing by for the weather to subside so that the oil extraction from the ship can continue.