New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission has released an interim report of its independent inquiry into the grounding of the containership Rena on Astrolabe Reef, in the Bay of Plenty, at 2.14am on 5 October 2011.
The incident is said to have led to the worst oil spill in New Zealand’s history.
The report sets 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.
“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 travelling 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”.
Among the issues being raised is several alteration of course from the passage plan as a shortcut, data not transferred when changing charts, use of a drawing instrument needle rather than a pencil to mark a position in a way that was not obvious, a conflict between the master and second officer’s accounts regarding the placing of a waypoint north of Astrolabe Reef.
There is no evidence to support rumours of drunkenness on the bridge.
The vessel’ master and second officer have pleaded guilty to several charges.
Download report .pdf (Note top of first page is blank, scroll/page down for title/content)