Waikato Regional Council announced the successful recovery of a 50-foot vessel that sunk in Mercury Bay after colliding with rocks near Motukorure Island (also referred to as Centre Island) last week. Thankfully, both the skipper and passenger emerged from the incident unharmed. However, the vessel, laden with 1300 litres of diesel, had been submerged 20 meters underwater on a reef.
Salvage operations spanned three days, with the vessel being raised on Wednesday for an inspection. As per Regional On Scene Commander Cliff Gibson, the hull had incurred significant damage, causing a delay in its recovery. Due to the damage, it was momentarily sent back to the sea floor as the salvage team regrouped and formulated a revised recovery plan.
While the team was poised to restart operations yesterday, strong winds forced them to postpone. They capitalized on calmer conditions this morning, towing the vessel to Cooks Beach. Since towing the vessel to the marina might have caused it to disintegrate in the channel, Cooks Beach was determined to be the safer alternative for a planned dismantling.
Cliff Gibson addressed community concerns over the vessel’s appearance on Cooks Beach. He assured residents that environmental hazards were meticulously managed and promised that the salvors would ensure all wreckage is cleared.
Though initially believed to be empty, the vessel’s tanks still contained diesel, which was subsequently pumped out today. A minimal hydrocarbon sheen, likely a mix of engine oil and hydraulic fluid, was observed during this process. Gibson is confident this will dissipate swiftly without major environmental implications.
The major portion of the sunken vessel has been cleared away, and cleanup activities on the beach are set to commence soon. During this process, the Waikato Regional Council maintained continuous liaison with the salvage team. The Whitianga-based staff of the council were present on-site today. Meanwhile, Maritime New Zealand is probing the circumstances leading to the vessel’s sinking.