Tuesday, 12th June 2012

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Maritime chiefs probe weekend oils spill

Maritime officials in Gibraltar are investigating the cause of an oil spill that occurred during a ship refuelling operation off the North Mole on Friday evening.

The refrigerated vessel Frio Dolphin was taking fuel from the bunker tanker Vemaoil XX when around three tonnes of fuel was spilt into the sea.

“The source of the oil was determined as a bunkering accident which is being investigated and followed up with the relevant parties,” the Gibraltar Government said in a statement.

The Gibraltar Port Authority [GPA] and the Department of the Environment activated the Gibraltar Oil Spill Contingency Plan and moved swiftly to contain the spill.

By Saturday afternoon most of the spill had been contained to several points inside and adjacent to the harbour.

Booms were set up to protect local marinas and other facilities within the harbour.

At one point, the slick was heading southwards along the exterior of the South Mole and no effort was spared to protect the northern approach to the Southern Waters of Gibraltar Special Area of Conservation and to the beaches in the area.

The response operation drew on assets from various sectors including the GPA, the Gibraltar Maritime Authority, the Gibraltar Tourist Board and the Environment Agency.

There was full cooperation between Gibraltar and maritime authorities in Algeciras, which deployed vessels and a helicopter to assist. Throughout the operation, environmental mitigation was given high priority.

The operation focused primarily on containment and collection, although a small amount of dispersant was also used.

All the recovered oil and soiled materials were returned for proper disposal through the port.

Despite the intense cleanup efforts, a number of areas with tar balls were identified and tackled during the course of Sunday.

Likewise a certain amount of cleaning to the harbour walls will be required in the coming days. The Gibraltar Government thanked everyone involved in tackling the spill, especially port and environment officials who showed great dedication to the task and managed to control what could have been a much worse situation.

It is also grateful to the Algeciras and La Linea Port Authority for the assistance given. “Real cross border co-operation between EU neighbour nations in such matters is crucial in ensuring the important marine environment of the region is preserved,” the Government statement said.

“The Government will now be considering lessons learnt in order to improve procedures even further to both prevent and deal with oil spills and liability for them.”



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