Pollution Fears Grow, but Gibraltar says progress made pumping oil from OS 35

Gibraltar reported on Friday that it continued to make progress in its attempts to remove the various oils aboard bulk carrier OS 35 (IMO 9172399), which hit tankship Adam LNG (IMO 9501186) last week while the former was manoeuvring to leave the port.

Teams were working to contain the damage from the leaks. A formal investigation was launched amid pollution fears rose among inhabitants of the British Overseas Territory, a peninsula off the south of Spain.

The condition of the OS 35 was reported to be largely unchanged – with a broken back but with the two parts still connected. The salvage teams were not fearing any imminent separation, despite cracks appearing in the area of the number two hold. The break and subsequent buckling caused the seals that the divers had placed on the vents from the fuel tanks to pop, which resulted in oil once again leaking from the vessel.

By Friday evening September 2nd the authorities were reporting that the leaks had been slowed and were mostly from the lighter viscosity low sulphur fuel oil, which they said would be easier to disperse.

Fortunately the weather conditions were favourable, which meant that pumping operations of the vessels’ fuel tanks were able to proceed. The salvage team reported on Friday that all but five tons of diesel oil has been removed from the vessel. The amount remaining aboard was in engine room tanks and was being used to operate the vessel’s machinery. More than 200 m/3 of diesel were recovered from the ship.

The salvage crew has moved on to focus on the number two fuel tank. This contained the low sulphur fuel that has been leaking. They were able to remove more than 80 tons of the fuel, with approximately 16 tons remaining in the number two tank. The tank was expected to be emptied overnight Friday/Saturday, which would represent the removal of more than a third of the low sulphur fuel aboard. For Saturday the plan was to shift to the number one tank, which has a capacity of 126 tons of low sulphur fuel oil.

Spain’s Salvamento Maritimo reported the fifth one of its vessels has also arrived at the location to provide further assistance.

Skimming and clean-up operations continued. More than 12 tons of a mixture of oil and water was removed from inside the boom. A new boom arrangement was planned for Saturday September 3rd.

Meanwhile, pollution warnings had been increased both in Gibraltar and the region of Spain that abuts the British Overseas Territory. On Friday night fishing around Gibraltar was suspended and some beaches were closed.

Additional equipment was also arriving from the UK.

An independent, experienced accident investor also arrived in Gibraltar from the UK with the role of ascertaining the causes and circumstances of the allision and what happened afterward. The authorities emphasized that this effort would focus on developing recommendations, with the aim of preventing similar accidents in the future.

The Gibraltar police have been investigating what caused the OS35 to hit the Adam LNG and the actions of the bulk carrier after the allision.

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister told Spanish TV said that the captain of the OS 35 reported hitting the LNG vessel but had told port officials that his vessel had not suffered any significant damage. Reportedly the port ordered him to stop, but the Captain proceeded out to sea, leaving the Bay of Gibraltar and heading for the Strait. It was only at that point that the captain reported his vessel was taking on water and port officials believed that their only option was to order the vessel to beach.

The police on Thursday confirmed that there had been one arrest in the investigation saying the individual was cooperating with the investigation. The captain was not identified by name, although Spanish media said it was the captain of the OS 35 who had been arrested. Gibraltar police said that the individual had been released on bail while the investigation continued.

Although most port operations late last week remained suspended at Gibraltar, cruise ships on Thursday were permitted to dock.

The next phase after the emptying of tank number one might include washing the tanks to remove additional oil after the pumping. The salvors were also considering the possibilities for salvage of the OS 35, including attempting to refloat the vessel.

Reports of oiled birds emerged and several beaches in Spain and the British territory flew red flags. Drone footage showed an oil slick extending way past the boom installed next to the vessel, but authorities said the leak had significantly diminished, with only sheening visible within the boom, but not collections of black oil as on Thursday.

Skimming operations inside the boom have removed some 12 tonnes of a mixture of oil and water.

The Gibraltar government said that “the situation is being closely and constantly monitored and every effort is being made to minimize the harmful effects to wildlife”.

Local Spanish health authorities said that “monitoring of bathing water will be carried out in the coming days to observe how it evolves until there is no health risk”.

No-one was hurt when the bulk carrier collided late last Monday with the Adam LNG.

Having determined that tankship Adam LNG (IMO 9501186) has suffered no damage that render it unable to proceed on its voyage, and having already provided statements for the ongoing investigation into the collision as required by the Captain of the Port, the vessel has been cleared to depart Gibraltar on August 31st. However, as of September 3rd the vessel remained at Campamento, Gibraltar.

2014-built, Marshall Islands-flagged, 105,975 gt Adam LNG is owned by Adam Maritime Transportation care of Oman Ship Management Co SAOC of Muscat, Oman. It is entered with North of England Club on behalf of Oman Ship Management Co SAOC.

1999-built, Tuvalu-flagged, 20,947 gt OS 35 is owned by Oldstone Cargo Ltd care of manager Oldstone Management Ltd of Piraeus, Greece. It is entered with British Marine on behalf of Oldstone Cargo Ltd.