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Gibraltar collision: Crucial hours as fuel removed from stricken ship

todaySeptember 2, 2022 5

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By Paul Kirby

BBC News

The OS 35 bulk carrierImage source, Gibraltar government

Image caption,

The bulk carrier was run aground by authorities to prevent it sinking and causing a larger environmental crisis

Salvage teams have rushed to pump fuel off a grounded ship after it collided with a gas tanker off Gibraltar and began leaking fuel oil into the sea.

Authorities said there had been a significant leak from the OS 35 on Thursday and booms were deployed in an attempt to stop the oil spreading.

By Friday morning, the British overseas territory said 80% of the ship’s diesel fuel had been removed.

The chief minister described the next 48 hours as crucial.

Workers would begin pumping the ship’s heavy fuel oil, which was the most polluting fuel on board, Fabian Picardo told the BBC.

“I am very concerned about a potential spill and will not be relaxed until the vessel is entirely removed.”

No-one was hurt when the bulk carrier collided late on Monday with the tanker Adam LNG, which was carrying liquefied natural gas.

Although the OS 35 was damaged, Gibraltar authorities said the ship continued to leave the Bay of Gibraltar, heading for the Strait of Gibraltar which connects the Mediterranean with the Atlantic Ocean.

At that point the captain indicated he was taking on water. Gibraltar officials said they decided to run the carrier aground, semi-submerged, to prevent it from sinking. Port authorities tried to repair the hull but it broke in two and by Wednesday low sulphur fuel oil had begun to leak into the sea from the tank’s vents.

The captain is understood to have been arrested.

Although the ship was beached on the east side of the Rock off Catalan Bay, local media said oil had seeped around the southernmost tip of Gibraltar, reaching the western shore as well.

Image source, Reuters

Image caption,

Fuel oil from the stricken bulk carrier threatens the east and west coast of the Rock

“The amounts that have hit shore, although regrettable of course, are fairly minor and we are hopeful that a full clean-up can be achieved,” the chief minister said.

Spanish authorities were placed on alert and patrols were sent to coastal areas to monitor possible pollution in what is called the Bay of Algeciras in Spain.

Booms have been deployed to contain the oil leak and a Spanish marine rescue crew has helped Gibraltar authorities use skimmers to recover the oil from the surface.

By Friday morning 197 cubic metres of diesel, which authorities said was around 80% of the OS 35’s load, had been removed from the ship.

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