A huge container ship docked in Timaru is leaking liquid nitrogen and ice is forming at the rear of the boat, but emergency services are unable to board because of the risk of Covid-19 among the crew.
The 280-metre Rio Blanco has a possible leak of two tonnes of liquid nitrogen.
But Fire and Emergency senior communicator Mau Barbara says the 20 firefighters and other emergency services at the scene are unable to board because of a possible Covid-19 risk on board.
"We have the problem that there is possible Covid on board so we couldn't get on board and the crews couldn't get off," Barbara said.
"At the moment we're liaising with Customs and the ship captain and we're going to attempt to board the ship with two-metre distancing wearing gloves and masks. It has been confirmed that between two tonnes of liquid nitrogen is possibly leaking.
The entire Timaru port has been evacuated.
"There was ice forming at the back of the boat so all I can tell you is fire crews were trying to board. We've got 20 odd firefighters down there."
As of 3pm today, Barbara said they had been told by the first mate of the Rio Blanco that the situation had been resolved.
"We were all ready to board the boat, PPE etc, and the first mate of the ship found what was the problem," Barbara said.
"It was a minor pressure valve leak. Because it was liquid nitrogen everything was freezing over. So as far as I know we never actually got on board the boat and the crews haven't come off the boat."