UPDATED FRIDAY: Salvage teams have worked overnight to build a platform they will attach to the port side of Rena today to help with fuel recovery operations.
Two teams of three people have been winched on to the vessel this morning but evacuation teams are on standby to evacuate them if necessary.
Maritime New Zealand says there is a strong wind warning advisory in place and the westerly is expected to increase to 25-30 knots, this may hamper salvage operations.
88 containers have been reported to have fallen off the ship. 20 of these have come ashore.
The salvage company, Svitzer is responsible for collecting the containers in the water. They report they have identified 35 of these, and 14 have been recovered.
UPDATED 3.45pm: Maritime New Zealand says 88 containers from the floundering cargo ship Rena have been lost from the vessel, one containing the stable but hazardous material ferrosilicon.
The public are being warned to stay away from washed-up containers and report them to the Fire Service. A number have been observed floating in Tauranga harbour and a recovery operation is underway.
MNZ said in a statement that over a thousand people had volunteered to help with the cleanup: "Which is really heartening, as it shows just how deeply the people of the Bay of Plenty care about their environment This is hard physical labour and the fact that people are continuing to volunteer is appreciated."
Diamantis Manos, managing director of Costamare Shipping Company S.A., the registered owner of Rena, has issued a video message to the people of New Zealand. View it here.
UPDATED 11.30am: The Port of Tauranga has outlined possible scenarios under which the Rena disaster could close the Port, but says such an event is unlikely.
In a statement Port of Tauranga say containers or oil drifting in trade lanes, or its tugs being required by Maritime New Zealand to perform emergency duties could restrict entry and exit from the Port.
The Port said measures taken to reduce the likelihood of closure occurring including sweeping shipping lanes with specialised sonar equipment to scan for containers, and MNZ were monitoring the oil slick.
"We envisage that if we were requested to provide tug assistance, this would be for a short term duration only. Already there are tugs here from Auckland, Napier and Taranaki available to provide immediate assistance," the statement said.
"It is our considered opinion that if any of the above scenarios were to occur, it is unlikely that the Port would be closed for an extended period."
9am: Tugs from the Ports of Auckland and Port of Napier are standing by at the Rena grounding as fears mount it will be broken up by pounding seas.
The three tugs were nearby all night as a large crack widened on Rena’s starboard side. Video coverage shows the rear half of the heavily laden container ship moving up and down in the swell.
In other developments:
• Stormy conditions that prevented salvage work yesterday have eased.
• Tugs will attempt to drag all or part of the ship free.
• Rena’s second officer has been charged and will appear in court.
• Volunteers are being sought to help in a cleanup of oil spilled on beaches
The latest report from Maritime New Zealand says conditions have not appeared to have changed overnight though the weather is calmer.
The first observation flights have been made and attempts will be made to lower members of the salvage team on to the ship to see whether removal of the fuel oil can continue.
A substantial part of the ship's fuel has leaked from ruptured tanks, while an unknown number of containers have fallen off.
One of the tugs is attached to the 47,000 tonne ship by ropes while the other two are roving around it.
In comments reported last night, Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the ship had clearly started breaking up and the biggest fear was it would sink where it was currently located.
''The worst case scenario is it sinks where it is because that water is quite deep and it will get quite a lot harder to get access to the oil and salvage it,” he said.
''They've got tugs out on the water...if the ship starts to break up they're going to try and hold the stern on the reef because that will be an easier place to do the salvage of the oil from.
''If they are unable to do that....then they will look to try and guide it to shallower water which, again, they can have access to should it sink. They need to get it to water of about 50m deep or less to be able to do that.''
Maritime NZ says the Rena’s second officer in charge of the navigational watch has been charged under s65 of the Maritime Transport Act "for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk."
The Filipino captain appeared in court yesterday also facing charges under the same act covering dangerous activity involving ships or maritime products.
He was remanded and granted interim name suppression. Some reports say the date of birth on the charge sheet was October 5, the same day as the Rena hit the Astrolabe reef.
Local volunteers are being called to help the 80 Defence Force members who are running a major cleanup of beaches affected by bunker oil that has come ashore.
Eye witnesses say there is a heavy stench over the whole area this morning. Volunteers need to be trained in the handling of the toxic sludge.
Rena is a 236m cargo vessel, which was carrying 1368 containers and was en route from Napier to Tauranga, when it hit Astrolabe Reef, offshore from Tauranga, on Wednesday last week.
The ship, a Flag of Convenience (FoC) vessel, is Greek owned and registered in Liberia. FoC is a shipping method where owners register vessels in countries with very low regulation of the shipping industry.