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Boom back around OS35 after weekend clean-up operation

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Salvors working on the wreck of the OS35 redeployed a boom on Sunday after several days of shoreline clean-up operations to remove residual oil released during heavy swells that further damaged the ship’s structure last week.

Beaches were closed in the early part of the Easter break as clean-up teams removed oily sand and monitored the coastline for damage to the environment.

Both the ESG and the Nautilus Project expressed concern that the oil from the wreck could have a detrimental impact on the marine environment and birds in the affected areas.

Some oil also washed up on nearby beaches in Algeciras and La Linea, where clean-up operations were also carried out at the weekend.

The oil washed up on shore because salvors had removed the protective boom ahead of the heavy weather last week.

The boom is not effective in large swells and there was a risk of damage and secondary pollution from the equipment itself.

The oil released from the vessel was what was left on board in pipes running through the keel from the fuel tank in the bow section to the stern section of the vessel, which is now broken into two parts.

The OS 35 was carrying 183 tonnes of heavy fuel oil for its own consumption, alongside 250 tonnes of diesel and 27 tonnes of lube oil.

All of those fuels were removed during early stages of the salvage operation but the wreck still contained residual coatings in the fuel tanks and pipes and salvors had warned from the outset that further pollution was possible.

Catalan Bay, Little Bay and parts of Sandy Bay were re-opened to the public on Saturday as the shoreline clean-up continued, with some sections of Sandy Bay still closed through the weekend.

While there has been some environmental impact – some oiled birds were spotted and the Nautilus Project voiced concern protected limpets on the shoreline – the clean-up has been largely effective and the situation at sea is now stable, with no reports of further leaks from the wreck.

The Department of the Environment and the Gibraltar Port Authority continue to work to mitigate the impact on Gibraltar’s waters and coastline and minimise the disruption caused to the public.

“There have been no further reports of free-floating residues, while the monitoring and cleaning of remaining residues along Gibraltar's coastline is ongoing,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement.

The government urged the public to remain cautious on the beaches and when bathing as small tar balls may still be present.

Any sightings of oiled wildlife should be reported to the Environmental Protection Officers on 58009620.

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