New Zealand's oil spill now stands as the worst environmental incident the country's ever experienced at sea, according to the government there.
It began on 5 October 2011, when the MV Rena container ship became stuck on New Zealand's Astrolabe Reef, which is sited off the Bay of Plenty. Over the following four days, oil leaked from the vessel in large quantities, eventually producing a five kilometre-wide slick, potentially endangering local ecosystems and damaging the quality of the water itself.
The oil reached the shore on 10 October and, while the MV Vena's crew were still onboard at this point, they were subsequently rescued when bad weather intervened. The weather, though, moved the grounded container ship slightly, causing the release of yet more oil.
MV Rena Oil Spill
Now, it's estimated that the MV Rena's oil spill level has reached the 300 tonne mark and, with the weather set to deteriorate in days to come - the situation could get worse.
Speaking at a media conference, Nick Smith - New Zealand's Environment Minister - put the scale of the MV Rena oil leak into context. "This event has come to a stage where it is New Zealand's most significant maritime environmental disaster", he explained, adding: "It is my view that the tragic events we are seeing unfolding were absolutely inevitable from the point that the Rena ran onto the reef in the early hours of Wednesday morning."
"The government is determined to throw everything possible at minimising the environmental harm of what is now clear to be New Zealand's worst environmental disaster in many decades."
New Zealand Oil Spill
Prior to the start of the New Zealand oil spill, the MV Rena container ship had been carrying in excess of 1,600 tonnes of oil. Members of the New Zealand Defence Force are now among those working to remove the remaining oil content from the ship, with four Navy vessels positioned in the vicinity and helicopters monitoring the situation from above.
This is one part of a three-stage salvage programme now put in place, which finishes when the ship's re-floated, but that moment could be many months away.
Costamere Inc, which owns the ship, has made a statement, pledging to work with New Zealand authorities and confirming that "every effort is being made to control and minimise the environmental consequences of this incident."
Enviro News will present further coverage of the New Zealand oil leak scenario as future facts emerge.
Image copyright National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - used for illustrative purposes only
Shell North Sea Oil Leak Expands
US Deepwater Drilling Rules Revised