Oil spills have been reduced as most of the oil is now recovered from the wreck (Government of Gibraltar)

Posted on September 5, 2022 at 6:37 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

Salvage teams working around the clock on the wreck of the stranded bulk carrier off Gibraltar have achieved a key milestone by reporting that they have recovered almost all of the oil on board the ship. Recovery efforts continue to focus on various parts of the vessel while cleanup efforts have also reduced the flow of oil onto Gibraltar beaches. As a result, the government plans to withdraw from Tuesday, September 6 from the “major incident” to allow more activities in the port.

“With the exception of Tank 2, rescuers are satisfied that all concentrations of pumpable oil have been removed, including those from the main engine room tanks. There is product remaining in Tank 2, which rescuers expect to try to extract,” the government said in its Monday, September 5, end-of-day update.

They did, however, warn that it was less of an environmental threat as there were still small tanks around the ship with small amounts that needed to be emptied. There were also discrepancies between the amounts of fuel reported by the ship’s crew and what was removed by salvage crews. Final measurement is still underway on the amount of diesel and low sulfur fuel oil removed from tanks and efforts have also begun to look for any oil concentrations in void spaces and tankless spaces.

Yet while crews are confident that most salvageable material has now been removed, government officials continue to warn that “continued releases of pollutants are expected until recovery operations are complete.”

Containment and recovery efforts were complicated overnight by stronger winds. Crews reported that the second containment boom around the ship had been moved, but with the help of Salvamento Maritimo they restored the boom and added weights to hold it in place. A boom near a beach also had to be repositioned while five ships also remain in the area with sorbent booms deployed. There are also two pairs of ships towing a ‘J’ shaped boom to catch oil that leaks past the booms around the ship.

Crews are also working along the coastline to clean up oil that has reached the beaches (Government of Gibraltar)

Overall, the situation at OS 35 remains stable after concerns over the weekend when water began to seep into the bulk carrier’s engine room. Rescue teams were forced to suspend the use of the ship’s equipment, which slowed efforts, but divers reportedly managed to slow or stop the water entering the ship. Crews had warned that a “degree of structural deterioration around the engine room” could be expected due to the water.

In order to improve OS 35’s buoyancy and reduce pressure on the hull, the weekend crews also focused on pumping water out of hold number 5. Pumping out the hold was to improve the buoyancy of the aft section of the vessel that remained afloat and possibly mitigate the impact of the leak on the structural integrity of the vessel.

The next phase of efforts to remove contaminants aboard the ship is also underway to remove other items such as chemicals, food, loose objects and furniture that could also become pollutants in the event of improper time on site. They will also start removing cargo and contents from the ship.

Crews are rushing to complete most of the cleanup this week with forecasts that the calm weather conditions that prevailed are expected to change by the end of the week. So far they have had favorable conditions with mostly light winds and calm seas facilitating cleanup since OS 35 ran aground on August 30.