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Salvage continues at sea as specialists mop up patches of oil in Gibraltar’s World Heritage Site

Specialist pollution experts clean oil from rocks on the shoreline of the Gorham’s Cave complex.

Specialist pollution experts were engaged in cleaning oil from rocks on the shoreline of the Gorham’s Cave World Heritage Site on Wednesday, as salvage work continued on the wreck of the OS 35 and the Port of Gibraltar prepared for a scaled return to normal operations.

A team from Oil Spill Response Limited, the UK company retained by the Gibraltar Government to support its pollution response, scoured and cleaned rocks supported by personnel from the Gibraltar National Museum, the Department of the Environment and GJBS.

Small patches of oil had washed up on the Gorham’s Cave shoreline when capped vents on the OS 35 pooped last week as the vessel’s hull crumpled a day after it was beached 700m off Catalan Bay following a collision in the Bay of Gibraltar.

OSRL continues to conduct surveys and assessment of the beaches and coastline but the surveillance suggests no significant oil sheen is reaching the shores.

In any event, a boom at Sandy Bay will be repaired and extended by 25m, allowing the entire beach to be sealed.

A 100m “hybrid boom” - it acts as both a curtain and an absorbent - will be deployed at Little Bay over the next 24 hours, which will provide further protection to the AquaGib water intake inlets.

On shore in Little Bay, the clean-up continued with careful washing of all rocks and pebbles tarred with oil.

On Wednesday, a day after the Gibraltar Government scaled down its response following news that all significant amounts of diesel, lubricants and fuel oil had been extracted from the wreck, the OS 35 Recovery Coordination Group convened its first meeting, chaired by the Minister for the Port, Vijay Daryanani.

The meeting was attended by the Captain of the Port, John Ghio, and representatives from stakeholder departments and agencies.

The situation on the wreck remains stable and no significant developments were reported.

A crane vessel called Multicat Nero, equipped with two large cranes and ample deck space, is being used to remove non-liquid waste and other items that could become future contaminants should the hull deteriorate further.

It has already offloaded 51 large bags of loose items and paint, 22 drums, mattresses and 10 bags of oily waste.

The salvage team has now commenced clearing the cold store and provisions.

The aim is to make the wreck as clean as possible should the weather turn and the hull break up further.

Separately, fuel storage tanks are being prepared to remove any remaining residues and to check for any remaining extractable residual fuel.

So far none has been found.

“Works are ongoing to consolidate the remaining oil inventory stored in small tanks into the previously emptied diesel tank for removal from the vessel,” the Gibraltar Government said in its latest update.

At sea, there was some light sheening outside the secondary boom surrounding the vessel but all indications are that the amount of free-floating oil has been significantly reduced.

Skimming and collection operations continue nonetheless.

On Wednesday night, port operations that do not involve bunkering were allowed to resume as part of a scaled re-opening of the Port of Gibraltar, which has been closed for some days to allow all resources to be focused on the salvage operation.

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