Company pledges money for New Zealand oil cleanup

AP News
Posted: Oct 18, 2011 12:49 AM
Company pledges money for New Zealand oil cleanup

The company that was chartering a cargo ship at the time it ran aground on a New Zealand reef and began spilling tons of oil offered 1 million New Zealand dollars ($800,000) Tuesday to help with the cleanup.

Meanwhile, salvage crews have again halted attempts to pump the remaining oil from the stricken ship Rena due to bad weather.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company announced Tuesday that it was making what it described as a voluntary donation to the cleanup because it was "deeply concerned" about the toll that leaking oil is taking on the environment and the disruption it is causing to people's daily lives and businesses.

"We wish to emphasize that MSC does not own the Rena, we did not employ its crew and we are not responsible for the maintenance and operation of the vessel," the company added in a statement.

The owner of the Liberian-flagged ship is Greece-based Costamare Inc., which has said it's working closely with authorities to try and minimize the environmental damage from the grounding.

New Zealand's transportation minister Steven Joyce said this week that the cleanup has so far cost 4 million New Zealand dollars ($3.2 million), a figure that is likely to rise substantially.

Hundreds of volunteers are helping to clean up beaches and restore surviving sea birds to health. About 1,300 sea birds have died so far in the spill.

Salvage crews managed to remove about 100 tons of oil from the vessel over 29 hours before deciding late Monday that weather conditions were making it too dangerous to continue. Crews managed to remove about 11 tons in a previous attempt.

The ship, which became grounded on the Astrolabe reef near Tauranga on Oct. 5, was being battered by swells of up to 13 feet (4 meters) Tuesday. Experts and officials are bracing for it to fall apart or sink at any time.

An estimated 1,400 tons of oil remains on board, while about 350 tons has already leaked into the sea near the coast, leading officials to describe it as the country's worst maritime environmental disaster.