Throughout this morning, the rescue team from ship OS35 managed to successfully crown the controlled sinking of the stern of the semi-sunken bulk carrier since last August 29 off La Caleta de Gibraltar. In relation to the work to sink the stern of the ship, which began on Friday at noon, the Captain of the Port of Gibraltar, John Ghio, declared that “Operation Salvor -Salvage–, approved by the Gibraltar Port Authority (Gibraltar Port Authority , GPA), to lower the stern of the ship has been developed as planned. As a result, OS 35 is now safely on the sandy seabed, which puts it in a better position to withstand adverse weather conditions and recovery operations ahead.”
Gibraltar Police charge captain of OS35 with seven separate offenses
Although the strong lifting storm has not yet broken, which could hinder the work of extracting the solid materials from the ship, this maneuver has been carried out in a precautionary manner. According to the Captain of the Port of Gibraltar, in any case, today, “winds from the East, possibly strong, but not a major storm at the moment” are forecast. Despite all this, new fuel stains appeared in Catalan Bay, but they were cleaned up. Now, the Gibraltarian Ministry of the Environment, headed by John Cortés, also responsible, as Minister of Culture, for the archaeological site of the Gorhan cave, affected days ago by the spills, is carrying out a daily evaluation of the situation of the coastal area, hand in hand with the Port Authority of Gibraltar and the specialized company Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL), which has participated in this deployment from the beginning.
The precision that is being established around the controlled sinking operation of the stern of the damaged vessel has delayed the device that began at noon yesterday by a few hours: “Each step towards the extraction of the ship is being carried out very deliberate and planned way. We will report in detail on the next steps and the consequent deadlines as soon as they are finalized; we hope to have more progress in this regard during this week”, says Ghio, the technician in charge of this operation.
After succeeding a week ago in pumping the diesel it carried on board in its tanks and in its reserves, the challenge now is to get its cargo off the ship: 33,632 tons of steel bars, made up of 11,636 bales, according to data from Ghio, who confirmed that “the barriers currently surrounding the ship will be removed this afternoon.”
The barriers on the beaches have already been removed, in order to prevent them from suffering damage “and becoming a source of contamination with the Levante waves expected for the next few days.”
On this side of the Gate and in relation to this case, the mayor of Algeciras, José Ignacio Landaluce, then a senator of the Popular Party, visited the advanced command post of the Andalusian Emergency Group on Friday. As reported by the City Council, from this mobile unit, belonging to the Andalusian Government, the controlled sinking of the OS 35 has been monitored yesterday off the coast of Gibraltar.
“The technicians of the Board displaced to our city have followed throughout the day and in real time the operations that were carried out with the ship aground, prepared to act in an emergency at any time. From the Andalusian Emergency Group they wanted to thank the mayor for the predisposition and facilities that have been provided at all times for the installation and needs of this control point. The mayor, for his part, wanted to return his thanks to “Salvamento Marítimo” and to all the resources of the Junta de Andalucía that are deployed. We are on pre-alert in the Algeciras City Council if there were any type of spill in this phase of sinking of the stern of the ship“.
Acknowledgments between administrations
This gratitude has also been shown by Fabian Picardo, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, in several telephone conversations with Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, President of the Andalusian Government, throughout this crisis. Gratitude that has also been shown to representatives of the central government.
Landaluce, especially critical of the situation generated by the accident, until the Andalusian president offered his full collaboration to the Government of Gibraltar, reproached again that “this sinking should have been carried out a few days ago, when we did not have bad weather and no storm was expected, but the Spanish Maritime Rescue media were not allowed to collaborate in the spill prevention tasks”.
However, Salvamento Marítimo collaborated actively during the control tasks of the ship’s spills and one of its planes supervised the controlled sinking of the ship.
In any case, the mayor of Algeciras expressed his wish that “the sinking goes well even when the ship ends up breaking with the storm.” However, despite what was expressed this week by Antonio Sanz, advisor to the Presidency of the Andalusian Government, who valued the collaboration between different institutions and flags, Landaluce insisted on his thesis: “We once again ask the Government of Gibraltar to stop collaborate with the Spanish administrations to minimize all the damage that is taking place”.
“Pollution does not understand borders, or territories, only to do harm”, he had previously assured, although his initial speech revolved around the alleged Spanish ownership of the waters immediately surrounding the Rock and controlled by the United Kingdom.
On Friday morning, the mayor of Algeciras chaired a coordination meeting of the municipal services that are part of the Local Action Plan against Coastal Pollution, which will be activated in the event that a hydrocarbon spill from of the bulk carrier OS 35, sunk off the coast of Gibraltar.
“The technicians give as very likely the spill of some polluting liquid from the ship after the controlled sinking of the same by the authorities of the rock, which will begin this morning, to which is added that on Saturday afternoon it will begin to reign in the Levante wind zone, which would lead to the breakage of other parts of the hull, and the exit of fluids from the pipes that run through the structure, and which could not be removed, ”the City Council reported.
It is estimated, according to the City Council, that in the event that this spill could occur and under adverse weather conditions, the contamination could reach the coasts within three to six hours, time in which the operations of cleaning. Until now, the contamination from OS35 has mainly reached the coast of Gibraltar and, to a lesser extent, the Poniente de La Línea coast, whose City Council has demanded protection from further spills as a result of the storm and despite the fact that practically all of the fuel from the bulk carrier was already extracted days ago.
Landaluce explained that the City Council “maintains the pre-emergency level of the Local Action Plan against spills on the coast, while highlighting the existing coordination between the Town Hall, Maritime Rescue and the Junta de Andalucía through 112”.
The captain will be judged on October 27
On the other hand and after hearing his accusations, Abdelabari Kaddura, 53 years old and a Syrian national, captain of the cargo ship OS 35, appeared before the Gibraltar Magistrates’ Court on Thursday morning charged with seven charges under the laws of maritime transport, conservation and heritage of the Rock.
According to the assumptions that weigh on him, he endangered other boats and did not take the necessary measures to avoid the collision, which ended up causing damage to protected areas and the Gorhan Cave, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The case will go to the Supreme Court of Gibraltar, which has set a hearing for October 27. After his appearance, Kaddura was released on bail of a thousand pounds and delivery of his documentation, in order to prevent him from fleeing.
However, perhaps a bureaucratic error could contribute to his defense, although it was promptly corrected: the ship collided on August 29 and, in some of the charges, the date of the 31st was wrongly listed.