Rena oil spill: Soldiers called out. Captain arrested...
Soldiers pick up clumps of oil off Papamoa Beach this morning as the oil spill from the container ship Rena continues to wash up on Bay of Plenty beaches.
What you need to know:
* Ship's captain granted name suppression in court
* Metal plating on ship has begun deforming
* Soldiers called out to clean up beaches
* About 70 containers have fallen off the ship
* Masks may be issued to Tauranga residents near toxic oil leak
* Port of Tauranga is on standby to shutdown operations
* Environment Minister Nick Smith says this is NZ's "worst maritime environmental disaster"
New Zealand soldiers are now clearing up the Tauranga beaches affected by oil from the stricken container ship Rena, but the full impact of the environmental disaster is still unknown.
The "world's best" navy architects are preparing reports on the damage to the Rena, while the ship's captain - who turned 44 on the day of the accident - has had his name supressed during a brief appearance in court.
More than 50 dead birds have been found dead and Maritime New Zealand is considering issuing face masks to people living near beaches affected by the oil.
Defence Force goes to work
Soldiers from the Defence Force have swung into action, with the start of beach cleaning work at Papamoa this morning.
The group of 80 soldiers, working in teams of 10, began this morning after undergoing training in how to safely handle the oil washing up on the beach.
The Defence Force planned to have more than 150 soldiers working on the beaches this afternoon.
Further out to sea, metal plating on the stricken cargo ship Rena - which is listing at 18-19deg with its bow firmly wedged firmly on the Astrolabe Reef - has begun deforming.
New Zealand salvage manager Bruce Anderson this morning told media the hull of the Rena had started to bend amid rough seas and high winds.
Top naval architects were preparing reports on how badly the vessel had been damaged, he said.
He would not confirm whether the vessel was expected to break up until those reports were prepared.
An overflight this morning revealed the ship was moving around in 4m swells but there were no new signs of oil leaking.
Salvage crews would board it was soon as they could but that would not be until it had stabilised.
"The last thing that we will do is put people at risk by putting them on to a vessel which is in a dangerous state,'' Mr Anderson said.
"The vessel still hasn't stabilised because the weather is so rough and the swell is still lifting and dropping the vessel.''
MNZ had been criticised for not keeping residents well enough informed but Maritime NZ director Catherine Taylor said it had launched a stronger community liaison programme.
That included keeping the public informed on health risks, and a public health team was working in the incident command centre.
"This is a very, very fast-moving game for everybody,'' she said.
Captain in court
The captain of the ship that has caused the environmental disaster has appeared in court - but his name and the address where he is being kept has been made secret.
This morning, it also emerged that the day of the crash last Wednesday was the 44-year-old Filipino man's birthday.
The MV Rena's captain, who is being held in custody and is understood to have been remanded in the Rotorua Police Custodial Facility, appeared in Tauranga District Court flanked by two police officers and watched on by a public gallery packed with media.
He is facing a charge under section 65 of the Maritime Transport Act of operating a vessel causing unnecessary danger or risk to a person or property, carrying a maximum penalty of $10,000, or a maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months.
Clad in thick orange high-visibility jacket overalls and with an unshaved, visibly wary face, the captain gazed blankly at his feet as his lawyer, Paul Mabey QC, asked Judge Robert Wolff that he be granted interim name surpression.
"There is a real potential that some persons may want to take matters into their own hands and it services no purpose at all that this man is accosted, attacked or in any way interfered with, because that would indirectly interfere with the process of this court," Mr Mabey told the court.
Mr Mabey asked the captain be bailed to a secret address and be asked to report to a police station daily between 9am and noon in order to assist the salvage owners.
At times when he was required on the Rena, he would not be able to attend.
Police did not oppose Mr Mabey's requests for name suppression order and bail conditions, but Judge Wolff allowed the man's age, race and pixellated photograph to be published.
About a dozen photographers and cameraman had been waiting outside the court for the man to be brought in in a police van, while at least 20 reporters and photographers sat inside the small courtroom.
Extra police were also brought in to stand watch around the courthouse.
"It is important to make the public understand the process that is happening and pixellate images of you appearing in court are permissable," Judge Wolff said.
"General details as to your age, race and occupation are also admissable for the reason that they are of course readily discoverable, but in order to protect you from others who would interfere with this and to protect the integrity of the court process.. I'm sure everyone present would realise that due process with law is the appropriate way to deal with what has happened... in this case I make those orders."
The man has also been ordered to surrender his passport and not to apply for any travel documents.
He will reappear in the court on October 19, when further charges may be laid.
Masks may be needed
Maritime New Zealand is considering issuing face masks to people living near beaches affected by oil from crippled cargo ship Rena.
Ms Taylor was this morning asked about the smell of oil in sea spray on the beaches.
"The way in which the oil has moved through the water, and how quickly it has moved, will be causing that,'' she said.
"We are concerned and we will be considering issuing masks to people.''
Containers reach Motiti Island
Meanwhile containers spilled from the Rena have reached shore at Motiti Island off the coast of Tauranga.
About 70 containers fell from the vessel amid heavy seas last night.
Maritime New Zealand said some containers had washed ashore on Motiti Island this morning, but could not confirm how many.
The agency said the eleven containers containing hazardous substances are still on the vessel and are not among the up to 70 estimated overboard.
The ship was listing at 18deg - sparking a navigation warning about the possibility of falling and submerged containers - after being at 11deg for much of the past week.
Maritime New Zealand this morning confirmed the Navy ship Endeavour had reported the loss of the containers.
More containers were expected to fall off as five metre swells and 30 knot winds continue to batter the stricken vessel today, a Maritime spokeswoman said.
"They more it's tilting the more they're just going to keep tipping off... The ones at the top are coming off first."
Simon Boxall, from the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton, said the fallen containers would be a hazard to shipping.
They often float just below the surface of the water and are difficult for ships to track, he said.
"There should also be concern as to the contents of the containers. This could range from household good to chemicals."
Mr Boxall said the main concern for authorities should be securing the containers.
Police warn public over containers
Police have threatened to prosecute anyone found taking goods from containers that spilled off the grounded cargo ship Rena overnight.
Inspector Karl Wright-St Clair said the containers remained the property of the ship owners.
He said people have a statutory responsibility to notify authorities about their location.
They would be dealt with by police if they were caught interfering with the containers, he said.
"I can't reiterate enough, please do not attempt to open any of the containers. Not only do they remain the property of the original owners or insurers, they may contain hazardous material and need to be dealt with carefully and appropriately."
The Rena started moving in 4m swells yesterday - forcing an emergency evacuation of the crew.
It was revealed yesterday that maritime officials turned down an early offer to have two barges help remove oil from the ship.
Hundreds of tonnes of oil leaked from the hull yesterday.
Our reporter at the scene has described the beaches he's seen today as "coated black".
Port of Tauranga ready to shut
Port of Tauranga is ready to shut down its operations ahead of a busy cruise ship season if containers spilled from the stricken cargo ship Rena threaten incoming vessels.
The Bay of Plenty harbour master has warned vessels against travelling in the area between the stranded ship and nearby Motiti Island.
That has raised fears for the operations of Port of Tauranga, which is set to host 58 vessels, including six cruise ships, this week.
Its chief executive Mark Cairns said the containers could be dangerous to incoming vessels if they moved to a different area or if officials "lost track of them".
The oil spill was a "nightmare" scenario for the port and the wider Bay of Plenty, he said.
"It's just an absolute nightmare. I feel sick about it. It's really heartbreaking to look out at the beach."
Most of the containers spilled so far had fallen into an area south east of the Rena, near Motiti Island, Mr Cairns said.
He said the position of the containers could change quickly with changing weather conditions and currents.
"It's a really dynamic situation. It all depends on where the containers go."
The first large cruise ship of the upcoming summer season arrived at the Port of Tauranga at 8am.
Rena is grounded about 22 kilometres from the Mount Entrance to the port.