The ship's hull is said to have "crumpled". / GIBRALTAR GOV.

Gibraltar plans to start removing fuel from the stricken OS 35 bulk carrier after the ship's hull splits

A major incident was declared on Wednesday evening and the UK is sending more pollution control equipment, which should arrive on Sunday

DEBBIE BARTLETT Gibraltar

The situation regarding the bulk carrier OS 35, which was beached after colliding with another vessel while manoeuvering to exit the Bay in Gibraltar late on Monday, has been monitored all night and the salvage master and P&I were due to board the ship at 7am this Thursday, 1 September.

The crew and surveyors who were on board were safely brought ashore the previous evening, so the ship is unoccupied but under constant surveillance.

The government hopes the operation to start removing fuel can begin today, starting with the low sulphur heavy fuel oil, then diesel and finally lube oil. The fuel will be treated as waste and probably recycled. This is said to be the cleanest way to remove the fuel with the least risk of long-lasing damage to the environment.

In an update yesterday evening, the authorities said the ship’s hull – which had been gashed in the collision – had “crumpled” rather than broken apart.

Protecting the environment is a major concern. Extra booms are being used to protect the area from any possible spillage and more oil spill equipment is being sent from UK and should arrive in Gibraltar on Sunday. Department of the Environment staff who are qualified in oil spill response are also on stand-by.

Offer of UK support

Due to the extra damage to the OS 35, it will now take longer than expected to salvage the ship; the original estimate had been a few weeks, but the plan to float the ship by installing a cofferdam is no longer viable. Divers are to carry out another inspection this morning and further updates will be provided during the day.

Meanwhile, UK foreign secretary Liz Truss took time out from her campaigning to become the leader of the Conservative Party - and therefore prime minister - to contact Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo and offer UK support if necessary.