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Safety and pollution key priorities as salvage plans drawn up for stricken vessel

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

A salvage operation is being planned to refloat the OS 35, the cargo ship that was beached 200 metres off Catalan Bay in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

In drafting those plans, salvors, surveyors and port officials will have two priorities in mind: protecting the safety of personnel involved in the operation, and minimising the risk of pollution.

The OS 35, which is loaded with steel rebars, was grounded after it began taking on water following a collision in the Bay of Gibraltar with the liquefied natural gas carrier Adam LNG, which sustained only minor damage.

An investigation is under way to establish the cause of the collision.

So far there has been minimal pollution and the OS 35 remains stable, with Gibraltar-based tugs and port vessels, supported by Spanish vessels, stationed around the ship with booms.

Yesterday afternoon, the Gibraltar Port Authority responded to a leak of hydraulic fluid from the vessel’s forward crane, which is the only one of the four cranes aboard the vessel affected by water ingress so far.

“A sea boom has been deployed around the vessel to contain any pollution,” the Gibrakltar Government said.

“An additional absorbent boom has been deployed to surround the crane structure, in order to minimise seepage at the source and to contain and collect the fluid to prevent further leeching to sea.”

The crew on the OS 35 remain on board the vessel and are safe.

The Gibraltar Contingency Council will meet on Wednesday morning and consider the technical options prepared by experts.

One key consideration will be whether to remove the fuel and lubricants on board.

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.

While this is a relatively small amount of fuel in comparison with other ship casualties, the proximity to the shoreline will heighten the urgency to ensure any spillage is swiftly contained and mopped up.

Salvors may also need to lighten the vessel’s load and remove some of its cargo before it can be refloated.

“This technical and operational planning will continue overnight to ensure that any salvage is conducted as safely and with as little risk to the environment as possible, and as soon as is safely possible,” the Gibraltar Government said.