Cargo ship snaps in two off New Zealand Coast (VIDEO)

A Greek-owned cargo vessel has broken apart off the coast of New Zealand after being pounded by six-meter waves, spilling containers and debris everywhere – and sparking new fears of yet another devastating oil spill.

The Rena has been stranded on a reef off the North Island since October, after running into it full-steam. The resulting oil leak has been dubbed New Zealand’s worst maritime incident, with heavy fuel polluting beaches and killing tens of thousands of seabirds. Despite salvage efforts, around one third – or approximately 400 tons – of fuel remains on board.


The Monrovia-flagged container ship ′Rena′ is seen split in two in a storm as it is pounded by high seas off the coast of Tauranga on January 8, 2012 (AFP Photo)
The Monrovia-flagged container ship 'Rena' is seen split in two in a storm as it is pounded by high seas off the coast of Tauranga on January 8, 2012 (AFP Photo)

Some of the oil could reach the shores of New Zealand as early as Monday night, but officials hope that the effects will not be as devastating as they were in October. A two-mile no-go zone has been set up around the wreck.

The captain of the Rena – which is registered in Liberia – and its navigating officer face criminal prosecution. Both men are being charged with operating a ship in a dangerous or risky manner, polluting the environment and altering the ship’s documents after the crash.