With heavy weather approaching, officials in Gibraltar agreed to salvor Resolve’s plans to sink the stern section of grounded bulk carrier OS 35 (IMO 9172399) in place off the British Overseas Territory’s eastern coastline. The operation was scheduled to take place on Friday September 16th.
The plan was proposed by the salvage team at Resolve as the best way to minimize the environmental impact that could result during heavy weather expected in Gibraltar on Sunday September 18th and the following day.
The bulk carrier was leaving Gibraltar during the evening of August 29th to head to Vlissengen in the Netherlands, when it collided with LNG carrier Adam LNG , which was heading into the Bay of Gibraltar. The LNG carrier was not damaged in the collision.
However, the OS 35 was beached on the East Side of the Rock after significant damage to the vessel’s starboard side. The ship was directed to the East Side by the Port Authority to ensure it could be beached, to minimize the risk to the ship and its crew. Subsequently it broke almost completely in two.
The 73-metre-long forward section was firmly planted on the seabed in 17 metres of water, while the aft section, which measures 105 metres in length, remained afloat. The two sections were still connected by “cracked, bent and buckled steel,” according to the latest update from Gibraltar Port Authority, and the vessel as a whole had zero structural integrity.
Gibraltar authorities have approved Resolve’s heavy weather plan, which will involve “lowering” the aft section “in a controlled manner” in order to stabilize it on the seabed.
Resolve said that, while the chances of pollution could not be eliminated entirely, it believed that the voluntary sinking of the currently floating section of the ship was a better option than leaving the wreck exposed to the elements. It was feared that leaving the aft section afloat could result in it breaking free from the grounded bow section, which would complicate the salvage effort even further.
All recoverable oil has been removed the wreck, but fuel residues and debris remained on board, and it was feared that these could be released into the environment if the section broke loose.
To prevent this as far as was possible the salvor would try to remove all floating, loose items from the vessel and secure the hatches prior to the sinking. They will also surround the vessel with a boom so as to contain any residual oil that could be released.
Gibraltar Port Captain John Ghio said that “the plan proposed by Resolve to stabilise the aft section on the seabed is the best option available to prevent further damage to the vessel and pollution that is likely to occur in heavy weather”.
He added that the “controlled operation” would provide “an opportunity to mitigate any environmental impacts from pollution and floating debris, which we would otherwise be unable to contain in heavy weather”.
The Port Authority and the Department of the Environment, together with partner agencies, will monitor the vessel constantly throughout the heavy weather in order to mobilize any clean-up operations “as quickly as it is safe to do so”.
Prior to the vessel breaking in two, survey inspections confirmed a gash amidships that measured some 10 metres by four metres on the starboard side.
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.
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.