Bad weather has caused the wreck of the bulk carrier OS 35 to split in two. According to the Gibraltar Port Authority, the shipwreck shifted, resulting in the separation of the hull and minor oil residue leaking from the ship.
The extreme waxing and waning of the tide led to the final separation of the bilge keel. After the last spate of winter storms, the bilge keel was the only very tenuous remaining connection between the wreck’s two otherwise entirely separate parts.
It is expected the oil residue came from the keel duct that contained the pipes connecting fuel tank 1 to the engine room. The fuel remaining in this pipeline at the time of the vessel’s initial sinking was impossible to recover and the valves to this pipeline were closed off in the initial stages of the recovery operation to secure the pipeline and in order for the fuel to be pumped out of tank 1. The Gibraltar Port Authority stresses that all possible extractable oil was removed from the OS 35 last year.
Right now, the heavy swells have subsided enough to redeploy a boom around the wreck. There have been no further reports of free floating residues. Crane barges will resume wreck removal operations as soon as it is safe to do so.
Beaches partly reopened
Catalan Bay Little Bay and parts of Sandy Bay have been re-opened to the public following a shoreline assessment and consultation with the Captain of the Port John Ghio. Parts of Sandy Bay have been cordoned off to allow public enjoyment of the beach whilst allowing clean-up teams to continue to work in these areas. The Port Authority says the cleaning of the coastline is progressing well, in coordination with the contractors and Oil Spill Response Limited.
Although the risk of this is low, the possibility remains, however, that further tar balls may still wash up on shore. Further sections of the coastline and beaches may be cordoned off if oil is detected.
OS 35 sinking
On 29 August, 2022, the OS 35 collided with LNG tanker Adam LNG in the Port of Gibraltar. Although the tanker only suffered minor damage, the bulk carrier suffered a ten by four-metre gash in the starboard side of the hull and was making water. It was directed to a location off Catalan Bay to beach and the bow went underwater.
Two days later, the hull broke, but the two parts did not fully separate yet. The vessel is sitting 700 metres off the shoreline of Catalan Bay. Since then, salvors have removed as much fuel oil and diesel oil from the vessel as possible as well as the rest of the inventory and cargo. The accident has resulted in several oil spills, with some oil reaching the shorelines. The wreck is to be removed by the end of May this year.
Also read: OS 35 wreck to be removed before 30 May 2023
Picture: OS 35 after a storm in March (picture by the Gibraltar Port Authority).