The rescue operation off Catalan Bay. / @GibraltarGov

Major incident declared in Gibraltar as the hull of the stricken bulk carrier OS 35 breaks into two sections

All operations at the port have been temporarily suspended so that all resources can be used to deal with the emergency. The crew have all been safely evacuated from the beached vessel

DEBBIE BARTLETT Gibraltar

When the bulk carrier OS 35 was involved in a collision with another ship, the ADAM LNG, as it was leaving Gibraltar on Monday night, it suffered a gash in its hull. The Gibraltar authorities were keen to remove the fuel from the ship as soon as possible, although this would be a delicate and weather-dependent operation and would mean about 50 hours of pumping, but now a major problem has happened before that could be done: the vessel's hull has broken.

The Gibraltar Contingency Council, chaired by the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, and the Governor, Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, has met to discuss the break of the Bulk Carrier OS 35.

Given the latest development affecting the vessel and the fact that it remains loaded with fuel, on the advice of the Captain of the Port and the other members of the GCC, a Major Incident (MAJAX) has now been declared under the provisions of the Civil Contingencies Act.

MAJAX has now been officially declared to allow for all available resources to be directed to dealing with this emergency.All other day-to-day operations at Gibraltar Port have been stopped to ensure availability of resources.

As a result:

- all GPA service craft are on standby;

- all booms at the GPA’s disposal have been mobilised;

- 2 vessels will be deployed in U formations with booms to start corralling any oil that might spill from the vessel and that might leak from the primary boom;

- an additional boom will be deployed along the coastline that is at risk of direct impact; and

- the salvage master has been authorised by the Captain of the Port to re-board the vessel to gather facts, together with the P&I on-scene commander.

There has been a substance leak from the vessel as a result of the movement arising from its break. Initial investigations indicate that this is lube oil. This lube oil is currently contained within the primary boom and all efforts will be made to remove it from the sea using a skimmer and sludge barge before it is able to leak from within the boom.

The Captain of the Port of Algeciras has been briefed and a Spanish Salvamento Maritimo helicopter is conducting a flyover at 8pm. Other Salvamento Maritimo assets are assisting also.

The Chief Minister has briefed the Leader of the Opposition on the latest developments and the declaration of the Major Incident. The Chief Minister has also briefed the President of the Junta de Andalucia, Snr Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, the President of the Cadiz Deputacion and Mayor of San Roque Juan Carlos Ruiz Boix, and the Mayor of La Linea, Juan Franco.The Gibraltar Contingency Council will reconvene at 9pm this evening or sooner if required.

The Gibraltar Contingency Council was convened as soon as it was realised that the hull had broken, and the Captain of the Port is taking action to ensure that any environmental impact is minimised. All operations at the port have been temporarily suspended so that all resources can be used to deal with this emergency.

The government will be issuing further updates when more information is available.