Monday, September 26

Gibraltar and Salvamento Marítimo fight against the dumping of the stranded ship while the extraction of fuel continues

At noon this Saturday, the necessary equipment for pumping fuel was taken aboard the OS35, the semi-sunken bulk carrier off La Caleta de Gibraltar, since last Monday night. It is now a matter of emptying tank 1 of the ship, a delicate operation because it is heavy fuel oil and any accidental spill could cause a stain of greater and worse consequences than those that have already washed up on the coast of the Rock or in the beach of Poniente de La Linea.

To avoid this, the Gibraltarian and Spanish authorities have increased their collaboration, with the participation of Maritime Rescue units, such as the “Luz de Mar” class deep-sea tugboats: “The complex deployment operation of approximately one kilometer of barrier around OS 35 in collaboration with the ship Salvamar is ongoing and is expected to last several hours. This operation must be completed before the removal of fuel oil from Tank 1 can begin in order to provide layered containment for any leaks that may occur,” the Port Captain reported to the Gibraltar Contingency Council, meeting again this Saturday at the 6 Convent Place, the seat of Government.

The oil slick that managed to overcome three barriers last Thursday, reaching the coast of La Línea, especially affects the coast of the Peñón, in facilities as sensitive as the salt water intakes used by the reverse osmosis plants, the desalination plants that supply of drinking water to the city: “AquaGib has carried out a diving inspection early this morning in Little Bay, which has confirmed that its salt water intakes have not been affected,” insists the Government.

The Gibraltarian coast, affected

More affected is another cove, Sandy Bay, a short stretch of sand near Catalan Bay, next to an urbanization and at the foot of the old rain catchments for water consumption, which were set up in times of the Spanish blockade of the Fence and that, after its demolition, has allowed a carpet of grass to return the green color to what was once a dement: “An absorbent barrier has been deployed to protect Sandy Bay, where there are signs of stain formation and small amounts of oil on shore. A clean-up operation is being carried out to eliminate them, ”signs an official note.

However, the most delicate operation that specialists face is still on the high seas. Early in the morning, preparations began to empty tank 1, which has a total capacity of 126 tons of low-sulfur fuel oil, in a highly delicate operation.

“While preparations continue for the fuel removal operation from Tank 1, the Gibraltar Port Authority (GPA) wants to take advantage of this period to place new barriers around the ship in a diamond shape in order to better contain the fuel. oil that can leak,” another official statement warned on Friday night, indicating that “the process of placing this barrier is very complex, with the participation of numerous assets, and can last 12 or more hours.”

During the night, according to the Government, the situation had remained stable, under continuous monitoring through thermal images provided by drones and by units located on the coast. On board, “continuous fuel oil pumping from vessel OS 35 had been maintained, albeit at a somewhat slower rate than anticipated.” It involved emptying fuel from tank 2 of the ship, from which, at 7:00 p.m. this afternoon, 80 tons of low-sulfur fuel oil had been extracted, but another 16 tons remained inside.

looking for leaks

According to what José Ignacio Landaluce, mayor of Algeciras, declared this Saturday, “the divers are not yet working on the ship since the movement of the sea makes it difficult to go down to the bow tank, which is the only one left with fuel. There are two Spanish Maritime Rescue vessels ready to collaborate, even though they were rejected by the Gibraltarian Government at the beginning of this problem”.

An evaluation is being carried out to determine if there is any oil leak from the submerged tanks, as occurred last Thursday. Yesterday, on the other hand, an independent investigator arrived in Gibraltar to analyze the circumstances surrounding the collision between two ships, which caused one of them to be semi-sunken off La Caleta de Gibraltar, causing a spill of fuel on the shores of the Rock and La Linea de la Concepción.

The Gibraltar Maritime Accident Investigation Compliance Officer, the Government of Gibraltar reported last night, “has appointed an independent and experienced accident investigator from the United Kingdom, under the Regulations of the Gibraltar Merchant Shipping (Accident Reporting and Investigation) Regulations 2012, to carry out an investigation into the collision of the bulk carrier OS 35 and the ADAM LNG vessel on 29 August of 2022”.

“The sole objective of the investigation under said Regulation is the prevention of future accidents by determining their causes and circumstances. The investigator’s report will seek to analyze the pertinent safety issues related to the accident and will seek to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar accidents in the future.

Collaboration with Spain

Faced with some political criticism raised regarding the incident -Vox has already announced that it will take this matter to the Parliament of Andalusia–, the diplomatic war ax seems buried, at least until the crisis is overcome. Thus, on Friday afternoon, Fabian Picardo, chief minister of Gibraltar, once again held “positive and supportive conversations” with the President of the Junta de Andalucía, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, the President of the Cádiz Provincial Council and the Mayor of San Roque, Juan Carlos Ruiz Boix, and the Mayor of La Línea, Juan Franco, “in relation to the clean-up efforts that Gibraltar has carried out so far.”

On this side of the Gate, the deployment to which the City Council of La Línea was forced on Friday, due to the stain that appeared on its Poniente coast, will continue the meeting called for Monday with all the businessmen and users affected, while The Corporation, chaired by Juan Franco, of the majority localist party La Línea 100×100, is studying legal measures to repair the damage caused by the lump.

If the oil slicks continue their course in that same direction, the next coastal strip that would be affected would have to be that of San Roque, although, for now, there is no news. There, the deputy mayor for the Environment and Beaches, Juan Serván, has assured that the City Council will remain vigilant in this situation, but trusts that “the spilled hydrocarbon will not reach our shores.”

The mayor stated that precisely this Friday morning a reconnaissance has been carried out on the entire San Roque coast of the bay, “and it seems that this discharge has not yet reached our shores.” In any case, a commission supervises in real time the evolution of the case, during the weekend.

Mayor José Ignacio Landaluce, of the PP, has considerably moderated his speech during the first few days, but has not lowered his guard against the possibility – for now complex – that the polluting discharge also reaches the shores of his municipal area. Thus, this Saturday, he held a meeting with the various agencies coordinated in the Local Action Plan Against Coastal Pollution.

“We are still in a pre-emergency situation just as we are still in a position of intense collaboration, permanent contact and surveillance of our beaches,” said the mayor, before adding that “no discharge has reached the beaches of Algeciras, the anti-pollution barrier from the mouth of the Palmones river is prepared in such a way that it only has to be moved if necessary”.

Landaluce also wanted to express that “by not having taken the ship into the Port of Gibraltar, everything is complicated. The future of that ship is to be destroyed by one of the storms that hit our area or by the programming of being taken out of the water. If this programming comes to fruition, we hope that the company that carries it out takes into account the climate of our Bay.”

“The different City Councils, the Port Authority of the Bay of Algeciras, the Junta de Andalucía, the State Administration, are contributing everything in our power to prevent our coasts from being affected. We hope that the fuel can be removed from the bow tank, that there is no loss of lubricating oil from the cranes and that all the anti-pollution barriers are achieved, and that they are effective”, concluded the mayor with as much hope as, probably, skepticism.

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