The OS 35 was beached on Tuesday night after a collision with another vessel. / efe

Fuel due to be pumped from the stricken bulk carrier off Gibraltar in a delicate two-day operation

The beached ship’s fuel tanks contain 215 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, 250 tonnes of diesel and 27 tonnes of lube oil. The salvage operation is then likely to take several weeks more

DEBBIE BARTLETT Gibraltar

Following another meeting of the Gibraltar Contingency Council this Wednesday afternoon, 31 August, more is now known about the 0S 35 bulk carrier which was beached off Catalan Bay on Tuesday night after a minor collision with another vessel. The ship's bulbous bow is submerged about 1.2 metres into the sandy seabed off Catalan Bay.

The situation on board remains stable and the crew are well, have adequate supplies and are producing electricity with an auxiliary generator. There are no appreciable risks to the crew at this stage.

It has now been confirmed that the vessel is further away from Catalan Bay than originally estimated, 700 metres offshore rather than 200. There have been no further escapes of hydraulic substances or fuel since Tuesday afternoon, when some fluid leaked from the forward crane, the only one of the four cranes on board affected by water ingress so far. A sea boom was deployed around the ship to contain any pollution and an additional absorbent boom placed around the crane structure.

The OS 35 is owned by the Old Stone Management Ltd company and managed from Pireus in Greece. Resolve Marine Services (Gibraltar) Ltd have now been appointed as the salvors of the vessel.

Pollution concerns

The focus now is to protect the coasts of Gibraltar and neighbouring states and jurisdictions from any pollution or other negative consequences.

The authorities are keen to begin offloading fuel from the OS 35 as soon as possible. This will involve approximately 50 hours of pumping and will be carried out under the strictest supervision to avoid any spillage. This is a delicate and weather-dependent operation. It has been confirmed that the ship’s fuel tanks contain 215 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, 250 tonnes of diesel and 27 tonnes of lube oil.

The current boom around the OS 35 will be replaced with another in the next few days, designed to be more effective for protection in the event of any spillage. A secondary boom, to operate as a double filter, will be added in a ‘J’ formation around the vessel. Additional spare boom capacity is being made ready in the event that it became necessary to deploy more coastal protection.

Divers have now begun to take measurements so the sizeable gash on the vessel’s hull can be repaired by using a cofferdam. The salvage operation for the construction and fitting is likely to take a number of weeks. During that time, the ship will be permanently monitored, 24/7, by Gibraltar’s maritime agencies, including the GPA, Customs, and the Environmental Research and Protection Unit.

Cooperation from Spanish authorities

The statement issued by the Gibraltar government confirmed that "communication with the Captain of the Port of Algeciras remains fluid, and a Salvamento Maritimo helicopter conducted a flyover at midday today as part of the monitoring operation".

The chief minister has also been in contact with Juan Franco, the mayor of La Línea, about possible risks and how these are being minimised and mitigated to protect the marine and beach environments in the area. Fabian Picardo also thanked Juanma Moreno, the president of the Junta de Andalucía, for his offer of assistance, and provided him with a full update on the progress of the operation.