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Oil spill response effort at Rosia Bay scaled down

The clean-up efforts in Rosia Bay last week. Photo by Johnny Bugeja.

The Gibraltar Government has scaled back its oil spill response effort at Rosia Bay following a final push over the course of the weekend from the clean-up teams.

This month volunteers and professionals have been cleaning up Camp Bay, Rosia Bay and Little Bay, after gas tanker Gas Venus split heavy fuel oil during a bunkering operation on off the South Mole.

Camp Bay and Little Bay were reopened days later, with the recent clean-up effort focused on Rosia Bay.

“Certain sections have been cordoned off from public access whilst monitoring activities continue,” said a statement from No6 Convent Place.

“Members of the public are asked to respect the cordons to avoid any further environmental damage and to allow the recovery of marine life as soon as possible.”

Volunteers from marine charity The Nautilus Project have aided efforts, with local company Brightside working as part of a clean-up operation coordinated by the Department of the Environment.

The Brightside team were working 14-hour days to take advantage of every moment of daylight during the first days of the clean-up operation.

The Government added it was grateful to all the workers and volunteers who formed part of the response team, cleaning and the area through long summer days.

The Environmental Safety Group recognised this as the first milestone in the Rosia oil clean-up, with round the clock efforts to save the coastline stepping down to a more moderate level.

But the Group added it had heard news of a very minor oil spill from a bunkering barge within the harbour itself.

“As far as we can tell not much detail has been published such as the barge company involved, [quantity] of spill and most importantly why did it happen?” the ESG said.

“One would think that after this most recent bunkering oil spill debacle that extra care would be ordered from top down to ensure efforts were doubled to avoid such accidents? Was this also negligence one asks? Will fines follow?”

In response to a Government statement, which said there was “no immediate impact” from this minor oil spill, the ESG said “zero impact means zero oil.”

It added that as an NGO that has followed the evolution of shipping and bunkering in Gibraltar the group has pressed for best technology and practice to be followed to protect the environment and eliminate air, noise and marine pollution to the least possible.

The ESG added that while some of these targets are being achieved more needs to be done, and done quickly, to review why these incidental spills keep happening.

“The public should be told of the bunkering firms involved in selling the fuel along with whatever vessel is being serviced when an incident occurs,” said its statement.

“The ESG also believes the Port must exercise greater physical presence over the multiple bunkering operations going on in our waters as the ultimate authority for pollution prevention and control.”

“We would also insist that the industry is large enough to fund dedicated bunker inspectors to ensure standards by all operators are being adhered to during all transactions.”

The ESG said that bunkering is not only an economic pillar for Gibraltar.

“As such, when mistakes are made, and spills occur, we think that huge fines must be given to all to ensure changes are made on the ground and tighter controls are put in place to act as serious deterrent,” the Group said.

“Instead we see some fines, clean up costs covered, a few local companies and departments working frantically to save our environment while bunkering continues, until the next one.”

“We need change.”

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