The Greek owners of the ship at the centre of New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster agreed Tuesday to pay up to NZ$38 million ($31 million) towards the cost of the clean-up.
Although damage from the toxic oil spill and recovery of shipping containers has so far cost New Zealand nearly NZ$50 million, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said the offer from Daina Shipping was “the best possible outcome”.
The ship Rena, carrying 1,368 containers, ploughed into an offshore reef 12 months ago spewing more than 300 tonnes of toxic fuel oil that killed thousands of sea birds and fouled beaches in the North Island’s pristine Bay of Plenty.
Daina Shipping is to pay NZ$27.6 million to settle the claims of the government and several public bodies, and will pay a further NZ$10.4 million if it decides to leave part of the wreck on the reef.
“These agreements allow both New Zealand as a whole, and the Bay of Plenty region, to move on from what was, from an environmental standpoint, the worst maritime disaster in our history,” Brownlee said.
Konstantinos Zacharatos, a director of Daina Shipping which is part of Costamare Inc., said the company wanted to “address all aspects of this serious incident.
“This settlement is a vital step forward in our progressive resolution of all the issues.”
The captain of the Rena, Mauro Balomaga, was earlier sentenced to seven months in jail for operating the Rena in a dangerous manner and has since been deported to the Philippines.
Balomaga admitted taking a short-cut on the way to the Port of Tauranga but said he was surprised that the Rena ploughed into the reef – even though it had showed up on the ship’s radar 15 minutes before the grounding.