Monday, September 25

The discharges from OS35 force the mooring of the artisanal fleet of La Línea

Four bivalve fishing points are affected by the exclusion zone established around the bulk carrier OS35, half a mile from La Caleta de Gibraltar. Juan Franco, mayor of La Línea de la Concepción, who met this Monday morning at the Palacio de Congresos with representatives of different local sectors affected by this environmental crisis, assures that this situation forces the mooring of the artisanal fleet, which means 32 boats currently dedicated to the capture of these molluscs.

The OS35 is not the Prestige, but it is serious

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Although no new hydrocarbon slicks have arrived in the Poniente area of ​​the municipality, a new barrier is going to be installed to try to minimize the impact of possible spills in the immediate future.

consumer caution

The artisanal fleet is not only affected by the strictly operational problem, but also by the logical precaution of consumers: “They have already told us that they are not going to buy products for fear of contamination”, the mayor has transmitted.

The mooring of the fleet has a direct impact on a hundred families, to which we must add the indirect jobs that the sector represents. Hence, Franco has initiated contacts with fishing technicians from the Junta de Andalucía, who in turn require time to carry out an effective analysis of the extent of the discharges in the area’s waters; a task that, according to the mayor of Linea, had already been initiated by the regional government, according to its delegate in Cádiz, Mercedes Colombo.

A diminishing fleet

Ten years ago, the fleet based in La Línea de la Concepción was made up of 79 ships, with a total tonnage of 223 GT and a registered power of 2,434.5 CV. In 2014, it was already reduced to 65, practically all of them, dedicated in an artisanal way to the capture of molluscs by traces. Of all these, 32 – who are now affected – commercialize their production regularly or frequently in La Línea de la Concepción, while another 33 do so occasionally.

The situation created indirectly affects the hotel industry and the owners of beach bars on the La Linea coast are already announcing the early end of the season. Despite this, the Councilor for Beaches, Rafael León, has announced that the season will be extended until September 11, the date until which La Línea de la Concepción will have all the operational means for the summer.

From then on, the rescue and lifeguard service will no longer be provided, so there will be no indication of the state of the sea with the distinctive flags, nor will any incident be dealt with immediately.

night jobs

Regarding the rescue of the sinister ship, all the indications point to the fact that the hull could end up breaking definitively or even that it could proceed to its controlled sinking. In any case, the mayor of Algeciras, José Ignacio Landaluce, has requested that said operation be carried out with the greatest possible guarantees and with the sum of all the resources available on both sides of the Gate.

For now, night work has continued on board the ship, according to the Gibraltarian authorities. That is, the situation in the engine room and in Cargo Hold 5 remains stable: “Pumping operations continued, having further reduced the amount of oil on board the ship. The operations concentrated on the lubricating oil tanks in the Engine Room, which have already been completely emptied”, states an official statement after a long vigil under an intense sunset.

The main problem that has arisen in recent hours is precisely that of the strong winds, which affect the anti-pollution barriers: “The strong wind conditions created difficulties for the response teams on site, and have particularly affected the barriers. The second barrier around the ship has moved, but has not been damaged. Likewise, the Catalan Bay barrier has also moved and some parts of the barrier have reached the shore. The work to solve this is ongoing”, the experts detail. This last circumstance joins the appearance of a “small spot” on the coast.

During the day this Monday, Little Bay will continue to see the red flag wave, since although no new hydrocarbon deposits have been reported, and cleanup work continues along its coast. In Camp Bay, the yellow flag flies and in Sandy Bay “some oil stains on the jetties and small scattered stains along the main beach” continue to appear. The yellow flag can also be seen on Levante and Poniente beaches, although the presence of oil has not been reported on that Gibraltarian coast.

For its part, the Verdemar-Ecologists in Action Association announced on Sunday that it will bring before the European Union the accident of the bulk carrier ship OS 35 and the dumping of part of its fuel in the waters of Gibraltar.

Environmentalists say that the spill caused by the ship, now stranded, affects an area that is a Site of Community Importance (SCI) of the Eastern Strait. “We are going to ask Europe what it thinks, if it is going to do something with the Natura Network”, Antonio Muñoz, spokesman for Verdemar, said yesterday, an extreme that the mayor of Algeciras has also underlined.

“What would have happened if the clash was between a submarine and an oil tanker?”, Raised Major Muñoz, warning that “that would be a bomb” and demanding that conservation entities participate in the talks on the environment prior to the Treaty that will set the future relationship of the Rock with the rest of the community territory: “We are talking about a too narrow place in which the ships are getting closer to each other, where six million tons of fuel are transferred per year. That stresses the area more and more. If there is no action and it is not taken into account in the conversations, it will get worse and worse, ”he denounced.

In his opinion, “since Brexit began, nobody here talks about the environment, or fuel traffic or nuclear-powered submarines,” he lamented, while demanding an environmentalist presence in the talks taking place between Great Britain and the European Union regarding the Rock, one of whose lines of negotiation lies precisely in questions that have to do with ecology.

The presence of submarines in the Rock can hardly be included under this umbrella, given that this matter depends on the British Ministry of Defense and is outside the current spectrum of the negotiating rounds that must be resumed during this month of September.

Regarding the specific case of OS35, environmental sources argue that until the clean-up work is completed, it will not be possible to know the full impact that such a spill can have in areas so close to a Natural Park and the only Intercontinental Biosphere Reserve declares around the world for the UNESCO.