The Gibraltar Contingency Council convened again tonight at No 6 Convent Place.
The Captain of the Port John Ghio updated the group, chaired by the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and the Governor Vice Admiral Sir David Steel on the evening’s developments. Minister for the Environment John Cortes and Minister for the Port Vijay Daryanani were also in attendance. The Deputy Chief Minister and the Minister for Civil Contingencies attended by video call.
The indications are that it is probable that the vessel has not broken apart as such, but has crumpled.
OFF LOADING FUELS CLEANLY & SAFELY : THE TOP PRIORITY
The first concern is the offloading of the amount low sulphur heavy fuel oil onboard as soon as possible, followed by diesel and then lube oil. The fuel will now be dealt with as waste and will likely be sent for recycling.
Current evidence suggests that the fuel onboard is well contained and it is hoped that offloading can begin tomorrow morning.
The public should be reassured that there has been no way to remove the fuels in question from the vessel any sooner in a manner that was not a risk to the environment. If such an option had been available with any resources at hand in the area, it would have been taken.
The ongoing plans to remove the oil are the best possible plans for removal of the fuels in question in a manner that is clean and will not risk lasting environmental damage to Catalan Bay, our wider coast or the our neighbour’s coasts.
PROTECTING CATALAN BAY & REVENTING POLLUTION FROM A POTENTIAL OIL SPILL
The boom in place on the port side of the vessel’s hull is being separated from the hull to avoid any potential oil seeping outside.
A further inflatable boom will be deployed tonight in J formation to collate any oil that may seep overnight.
At least 3 further booms will be ready to be deployed in J formations by tomorrow. A foam-filled boom will be placed at Catalan Bay as a tertiary precautionary measure to protect the beach.
OIL SPILL RESPONSE PREPAREDNESS
Additional oil spill equipment has been procured from the UK and is expected to arrive in Gibraltar on Sunday.
The Department of Environment has staff qualified in oil spill response on standby to manage any response.
Environmental sensibility mapping is underway to determine the most placements for preventive booms along Gibraltar’s coastline and to protect both Gibraltar’s beaches and those in neighbouring Spain.
REMOVING THE HULL : LIKELY NOW A LONGER TERM OPERATION
As a result of the further break experienced this afternoon, the salvage of the hull of the OS 35 is now likely to require a longer term plan.
The timeframe for this is now likely extended past the previous expectation of a few weeks.
The floating of the vessel by installing a cofferdam is likely no longer a viable option for its salvage.
These issues will, however, not be clarified until a dive team is able to inspect the damage in the morning.
There will be a blue-light presence on the water to provide security overnight.
The salvage master and P&I will board the vessel.
A dive team will conduct an external survey and determine the extent of any break. It is hoped that it will be possible to begin to pump out fuel from the vessel.
The Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, has been in contact with the Chief Minister to offer UK support for the operations if necessary. The Chief Minister has expressed the gratitude of the People of Gibraltar to Ms Truss who has taken time out from the last throes of the Conservative leadership election to be in contact with the Chief Minister.