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Published: 2016-05-24 00:00:00

A commercial diver has successfully plugged ‘breathers’ on a sunken vessel which was leaking small amounts of diesel into Coromandel Harbour, says Waikato Regional Council.

The vessel had experienced mechanical failure and was towed into the Coromandel Harbour in the early hours of this morning. It was moored close to the ferry wharf near Te Kouma, while the owner made arrangements for the vessel to be repaired.

The vessel subsequently sunk, with no persons on board. It’s unknown what caused the boat to sink.

“A diver arrived at the scene this afternoon and was able to block the breathers of the fuel tank to stop the discharge of diesel into the water,” said the council’s regional on scene commander, Dave Lovatt.

“It’s unclear how much of the estimated 200 litres of diesel has escaped into the water, but we believe it’s only a tiny amount of what was on board.

“The good news is that diesel is a light fuel and breaks down rapidly when exposed to the air, and the choppy sea conditions help it to disperse and break up too. So, we expect there’ll be minimal impact on the marine environment,” Mr Lovatt said.

Meanwhile, the owner’s Auckland-based insurer is expected to attempt to re-float and salvage the sunken vessel over the next few days.

“As a precaution, our harbourmaster will be keeping a watchful eye on the salvage operation, with booms on standby if required,” Mr Lovatt said.