UPDATE: Major Incident (MAJAX) still in place in Gibraltar following bulk carrier collision

Gibraltar declares major incident days after bulk carrier collision

Gibraltar declares major incident days after bulk carrier collision. Image: @GibraltarGov

AFTER declaring a major incident earlier on Wednesday, August 31, the Captain of the Port John Ghio has told the Gibraltar Contingency Council that indications are that it is probable that the vessel has not broken apart as such, but has crumpled, leading to “a substance leak from the vessel.”

UPDATE 11.58 pm (August 31) – In its final update of the day, the Gibraltar Contingency Council, who earlier declared a Major Incident (MAJAX) following a break in the hull of the bulk carrier OS35 which collided with another boat on Monday, August 29, convened again at No 6 Convent Place on Wednesday, August 31.

The council said: “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 on the morning of Thursday, September 1.”

The council offered reassurance to the public.

“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 our neighbour’s coasts.”

It added: “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 three 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.”

According to the council, “additional oil spill equipment has been procured from the UK and is expected to arrive in Gibraltar on Sunday, September 4.”

It added: “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.”

The council noted that 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,” it said.

“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.”

The Gibraltar Contingency Council said that overnight “a blue-light presence will be in place on the water to provide security overnight” then at 7 am the salvage master and P&I will board the vessel.

It added: “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.”

Following the announcement of the major incident, the council revealed that UK’s Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, had been in contact with Gibraltar’s 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.”

ORIGINAL 9.39 pm (August 31)Following the collision between bulk Carrier OS 35 with another ship on the evening of Monday, August 29, the government of Gibraltar has declared a major incident.

The Gibraltar Contingency Council, chaired by the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, and the Governor, Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, declared a Major Incident (MAJAX) on Wednesday, August 31, following a break in the hull of the bulk carrier OS35.

“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,” the council said.

I added: “It is important to note that Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar and its partner agencies have been working towards this posture throughout.

“MAJAX has now been officially declared to allow for all available resources to be directed to dealing with this emergency.”

As noted, MAJAX was declared due to “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 council said.

It added: “The salvage master has confirmed to the Captain of the Port that all fuel valves were isolated before the break occurred.

“The priority of the Captain of the Port and of the Government of Gibraltar is to mitigate and minimise any environmental impact.”

Further inspections and updates are expected throughout the night on Wednesday, August 31.

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Written by

Matthew Roscoe

Originally from the UK, Matthew is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.