In the final update of the day, the Gibraltar Government said that it is possible that the hull of cargo vessel OS 35 hasn’t broken apart but crumpled, and the work may take more than a few weeks.
This announcement was made late in the evening, after John Ghio, the Captain of the Port, attended a Civil Contingencies meeting chaired by Fabian Picardo, the Chief Minister, and David Steel, the Governor Vice Admiral Sir, regarding the evening’s developments.
The Gibraltar Contingency Council, which had previously declared a Major Incident (MAJAX) after a break in the bulk carrier’s hulk, which reportedly collided with another vessel on 29 August, convened at No 6 Convent Place on 31 August.
The council had mentioned that the immediate concern is offloading the low sulfur heavy fuel oil on the vessel. Once done, the focus must be on the lube oil and diesel. The fuel will be dealt with as waste and sent for recycling.
Current evidence reflects that the fuel on the ship is well contained. It is also likely that offloading can start on 1 September morning.
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The council reassured the public as the public needs to be reassured that there has been no way to get rid of the fuels in question from the vessel sooner in a way that did not cause a risk to the environment.
It would have been taken if such an option were available with resources in the area.
The ongoing plans to remove the oil are, until now, the best possible plans to remove fuels in question in a clean way that will not result in lasting environmental impairment to the Catalan Bay, more expansive coast, or neighbour’s coasts.
It added that the boom on the port side of the vessel’s hull is now being detached from the hull to avoid oil seeping outside.
An additional inflatable boom will be deployed in J formation to collate oil that may be seeping overnight.
At least three booms will be set to be deployed by tomorrow in J formations. A boom filled with foam will be placed along the Catalan Bay as a tertiary precautionary measure to safeguard the beach.
Per the council, additional advanced oil spill equipment was procured from the UK. These are expected to reach Gibraltar on 4 September.
It added that the Department of Environment had qualified specialists experienced in oil spill response. They are on standby to tackle any response.
Mapping of environmental sensibility is also being done to help determine the most placements for preventive booms all along Gibraltar’s coastline and safeguard its beaches and those in neighboring Spain.
The council observed that the OS 35’s hull salvage is now likely to need a long-term plan.
This timeframe is likely extended past the earlier expectations of a few weeks.
Floating the vessel by installing a cofferdam does not seem like a viable option anymore for its salvage. However, the issues will not be resolved until a dive team can thoroughly examine the damage in the morning.
The Gibraltar Contingency Council mentioned that a blue-light presence would be on the territory’s water to provide security throughout the night. At around 7 am, the P&I and salvage master will board the cargo ship.
It added that a specialized dive team would conduct an external survey to determine the extent of a break, if any. It is expected that pumping out fuel from the vessel may be possible.
Following the declaration of the major incident, the council also revealed that Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, was in touch with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar to offer the UK’s support for the operation if needed.
All people on board, including 24 crew members and six surveyors, have been safely evacuated.
Operations at the Gibraltar Port are suspended to concentrate resources on this emergency.
References: Gibraltar Chronicle, Euro Weekly News
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