A ship at the centre of New Zealand's oil spill was investigated while in Australia earlier this year. Oil has started to wash ashore from the crippled container ship, Rena, which hit a reef in the pristine Bay of Plenty (New Zealand) five days ago.
Recovery teams have been working to try to stabilise containers of fuel aboard the vessel ahead of strong winds and rough seas forecast to hit the area later today.
There are fears the rough conditions could see the ship break apart and sink.
Earlier this year the ship was investigated while it was in Melbourne and Fremantle.
International Transport Workers Federation spokesman Matt Purcell says issues included the under-payment of its crew and complaints about the standard of water on board.
He says he is not surprised it is now having more problems, given the number of issues raised in Australia.
"The crew complained about the standard of fresh water aboard the vessel, there were problems with the crew's wages and conditions," he said.
"There was also some issues with excessive overtime that they were being made to work because of the age of the ship - there's a lot of maintenance to be done on the vessel - and I believe there were some problems in the engine room which I'm not privy to."
The 47,000-tonne container vessel ran aground off New Zealand's North Island last Wednesday.
Maritime New Zealand salvage unit manager Bruce Anderson says sensors have been installed on the Liberian-flagged ship to alert officials if stress from rough weather begins to tear the hull apart.
"Obviously the potential for serious consequences is there, and we're under no illusions about that - that's why we're trying to work around the clock to get the oil off," he said.
Last night workers began pumping 1,700 tonnes of fuel from the ship onto a bunker barge alongside, but the operation was interrupted due to deteriorating weather conditions.
Recovery officials estimate as much as 20 tonnes of oil has leaked into the sea, and 100 tonnes has spilled into the ship's keel.
Wildlife rescuers hold grave fears for the area's rich bird and marine life. Those concerns were heightened by the first appearance today of oil along the coast at Mount Maunganui.
Discharge from the ship has created a five-kilometre oil slick and killed a number of sea birds, with seven little blue penguins and two shags being treated at wildlife rescue centres after being found covered in oil.
The government has warned that if the ship sinks and spews oil into the Bay of Plenty, which is home to whales, dolphins, penguins and seals, it could create New Zealand's largest maritime pollution disaster in decades.
Salvage teams have installed covers designed to seal the ship's fuel tanks if it ends up on the sea bed.
They also lashed down shipping containers on the vessel's deck and moved the fuel from damaged tanks at the front of the vessel to more secure ones in the stern.
About 250 people, including specialists from Australia, Britain, the Netherlands and Singapore, have joined the oil slick response team, with 300 defence personnel on standby in case they are needed for shoreline clean-up work.
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Text taken from ABC News.