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Salvors work overnight to extract fuel from OS 35, situation stable

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Work to extract heavy fuel oil from the aft storage tank of the wreck of the OS 35 continued overnight and should be completed during the course of the day, the Gibraltar Government said on Saturday morning.

The process was “slightly slower pace than predicted” but the situation at sea remains stable.

Continuous monitoring has been in place throughout the night including drone and land based thermal imagining, and an assessment is being made to determine if any oil is leaking from the submerged tanks.

Once the aft tank is empty, salvors will prepare a plan to extract about 126 tonnes of heavy fuel oil that remain in the foreward tank of the vessel, which is submerged and will prove more complicated to empty.

And additional boom will also be placed around the ship in a diamond formation, a process that could take around 12 hours.

The developments came as the Spanish Government’s top maritime official praised Gibraltar’s decision to ground the OS 35 in shallow water on the east side of the Rock.

Benito Nuñez, the Director General of Spain’s Merchant Marine Directorate, oversees the country’s maritime emergency and rescue services.

In an interview with El Pais published on Saturday, he said beaching the vessel had been the correct decision and meant salvage and anti-pollution operations would be easier.

“We can talk about details, but the manoeuvre was not incorrect,” he told El Pais.

“In the event of a sinking, a vessel at a depth of 200 metres is not the same as [a vessel] at 17 metres.”

“Everything is easier when it’s close, the same when it comes to containing pollution.”

“The visuals are more dramatic and troublesome, but it’s better.”

Spanish tugs and aerial surveillance assets have been working closely with Gibraltarian authorities from the outset of the OS 35 accident, and helping to contain pollution at sea to minimise the amount of oil reaching shore.

“We offered and they accepted,” Mr Nuñez said, describing how Gibraltar’s Captain of the Port, John Ghio, had contacted his counterpart in Algeciras, Karim Breir, shortly after the collision.

“They’ve had a very constructive attitude.”

“They’ve kept us informed.”

“Gibraltar has made an effort to provide information.”

Mr Nuñez said it was important to draw lessons from incidents such as this but that it was too soon to reach any conclusion on what had led to the collision.

“I’m not one for quick value judgements without rigorous analysis, without having all the elements,” he said.

“As with every accident there will be all the necessary investigations and, from there, conclusions will be drawn.”

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