A cargo ship that collided with a natural gas tanker off the coast of Gibraltar earlier this week has “crumpled up” and leaked oil on Thursday, authorities said efforts were being made to salvage the vessel.
The government has declared a “major incident” in Gibraltar on Wednesday after the OS 35 freighter collided with a liquefied natural gas vessel the day before.
The cargo ship, carrying 215 tons of heavy fuel oil, 250 tons of diesel fuel and 27 tons of lube oil, has been stranded to prevent it from sinking in the Bay of Gibraltar. All 30 people on board, including 24 crew members and 6 surveyors, were evacuated.
The Gibraltar Port Authority (GPA) confirmed on Thursday that there had been an oil spill, a small amount of which escaped from the edge of a tree that had been set up after the accident.
“The onboard salvage team has identified the source of this leak to two tank vents in the ship’s bunker tanks. All vents were previously sealed, but the seals of two vents became loose due to the crumpling of the barrel,” the GPA said in a statement.
According to the statement, divers on site were able to repair the seals and the GPA was in the process of stopping the release of oil from the vents. Authorities were collecting the free-floating oil that has already been vented, while sorption booms were deployed to absorb the oil.
On Wednesday evening, the government said there were indications that the cargo ship “had not broken up as such, but was crumpled”, and that the “first concern” was to unload the low-sulphur heavy fuel oil on board as soon as possible, followed by diesel and lube oil.
The government added that there has been “no way to remove the fuels in question from the ship earlier in a way that does not pose a risk to the environment.”
Greenpeace told CNN it is concerned because the area of the incident is a heavily polluted area due to the volume of passing ships.
Greenpeace campaigner Francisco del Pozo, who is monitoring the situation, told CNN there is “as it is, no major oil spill.”
According to the Gibraltar authorities, it will take about 50 hours of pumping to carry out the operation “under the strictest supervision to avoid spillage”.
Additional oil spill equipment from the UK is expected to arrive in Gibraltar on Sunday, the statement said.
The government of Gibraltar said the timetable for salvaging the hull of the OS 35 freighter is likely to take longer than previously expected of a few weeks.