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WELLINGTON, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand's shipping authorities have cordoned off a Liberian-flagged container ship that has grounded on a reef off the east of the North Island as they attempt to assess whether it poses an environmental risk.
The 236-meter cargo ship Rena struck the Astrolabe Reef, about 12 nautical miles off the coast near Tauranga Harbour, at around 2. 20 a.m. Wednesday and was listing, said a statement from Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).
None of the 25 crew aboard the 47,000-tonne vessel were reported injured, it said.
A light sheen of oil was visible around the ship, but it was thought to be hydraulic oil from the engine and was not considered "a significant environmental risk at this point," it said.
A hazardous substance aboard the stranded cargo ship Rena could give off highly flammable hydrogen gas if it comes into contact with water.....
...the vessel was carrying four containers of the alloy ferrosilicon, a solid substance which was a potential fire risk. "If it comes into contact with water it gives off hydrogen gas, which is reasonably flammable. It would obviously need a spark to go up, but that's a risk we have to look into,''.....
.... A Transport Accident Investigation Commission inquiry has been launched to find out how the ship became grounded on the reef at near-high tide. Spokesman Peter Northcote said the inquiry could take up to a year to complete, but interim reports or urgent safety recommendations could come sooner if needed. "This event, involving such a large ship and finding itself on a reef where it shouldn't have been, automatically qualifies itself for investigation,'' he said.
More than 350 tonnes of oil has spilled into the ocean since the 47,000-tonne cargo ship grounded on the Astrolabe Reef off the Tauranga coast on October 5.
The stricken Rena is now settled "comfortably" on Astrolabe reef, but is only just holding itself together because of its position, a Marine expert says.
Of 88 containers reported missing from the ship, 35 have been identified and 14 have been recovered.
The 19 Filipino crew members left the country after they were interviewed and had their statements taken... "The Filipino people fully understand what the people of New Zealand, especially those in the Tauranga communities are going through right now," the statement said.
The Rena's navigation officer has been released on bail after appearing in the Tauranga District Court... He faces charges under section 65 of the Maritime Act for "operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk"... The hearing was almost identical to that of the Rena's captain, who was granted the same conditions yesterday.
As well as oil, nearly 17 tonnes of tiny plastic beads the Rena was carrying may pose a threat to wildlife as rubbish washes up on Bay of Plenty beaches in New Zealand. A container of translucent polymer beads, about 2mm to 3mm in size and used in the plastics industry, was aboard the ship when it crashed into the Astrolabe reef more than three months ago.