The Chief Minster Fabian Picardo and the Governor Vice Admiral Sir David Steel chaired a meeting of the Gibraltar Contingency Council at noon today, attended also by the Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia, Minister for the Port Vijay Daryanani and Minister for Environment John Cortes.
WATER INGRESS TO ENGINE ROOM AFFECTING PUMPING OPERATION
There is now water ingress in the OS 35’s engine room.
This means that the vessel’s own systems cannot presently safely be used to pump fuel out. Salvors will instead need to rely on independent, off-ship systems at this stage.
Dive teams are investigating the source of water ingress into the engine room.
Work is underway to clear away any non-essential materials that could potentially add to the levels of contamination.
Latest reports suggest that the water ingress may be coming under control.
TANK 2 FUEL EXTRACTION
The salvage teams continue the operation to remove fuel from Tank 2.
Whilst the majority of fuel has already been successfully removed, the operation has been substantially slowed by this latest development and residual quantities of fuel are being removed now.
The Captain of the Port is deploying addition levels of layered containment around the OS 35. This involves an ongoing operation to deploy 1km of boom surrounding the vessel. This boom is being deployed by Salvamento Maritimo at the request of the Captain of the Port by the Pollution Control Vessel ‘Clara Campoamor’.
Further booming operations will continue around the OS 35 and elsewhere in the vicinity of the vessel and any areas which require additional protection as soon as operationally possible.
The key priority in preparation for the operation for the extraction of heavy fuel oil from Tank 1 of the OS 35 is to have successful layered containment to the highest possible level around the ship.
The aim of this operational tasking is to seek to avoid the release of as much free floating oil as possible and uncontrolled seepage into open water to the maximum possible extent.
Once this is further booming established to the satisfaction of the Captain of the Port, it will allow the salvors to proceed with the work to remove as much fuel as cleanly as safely possible from Tank 1 of the vessel.
CONTINUED SEEPAGE UNAVOIDABLE
The current advice is that whilst salvors expect to be able to remove fuel from the vessel, the vessels fuel tanks will remain dirty. This means that there will be residual quantities of fuel in the tanks and, as a result (given the crumpled state of parts of the hull of the ship) almost entirely unavoidable continued seepage of small quantities of polluting materials from the OS 35 for the period that it remains in situ.
The deployment of booms in layers around the vessel will prevent to the highest possible level the amount of seepage into open water but they will NOT provide a watertight layer of containment, which it is not technologically possible to provide
In this respect, it should be noted that all options for the salvage operation are sub-optimal in terms of the absolute control of pollution.
The aim of layered containment is to limit the seepage as much as possible. It can however not be realistically expected that there will not be some seepage outside the booms into surrounding open water, despite the best possible strategy of layered containment.
The advice is that this is the unfortunate but unavoidable situation arising from this incident. This situation will therefore now continue for the rest of the summer and until the salvage operation is completed.
REMOVING OIL SHEEN
Skimming operations are continuous, but have limits to what they can achieve. Skimming within the boom close to the ship is being successful. The sheen in open water is currently light, which means that it needs to be corralled into denser patches in order to be collected.
To assist in these operations, a purpose built, small catamaran launch that can operate 24/7 is en route from Cadiz with a double crew and is expected to arrive and be operational today. This vessel is able to skim any oil that it encounters directly, including light sheen in open water. It will be directed to areas of sheen identified by the overflights being conducted to assist the GPA by the Ministry of the Environment and the helicopter which is deployed by Algeciras Port in support of ongoing operations.
The GPA are marshalling all available resources that can assist the operational tasking required by the Captain of the Port in support of the ongoing salvage and pollution prevention and control operations. The Port of Algeciras continues working in close coordination with the GPA in order to establish if any of the assets available to them are suitable and to ascertain timelines for deployment.
LAND-BASED CLEANING OPERATIONS
The Department of Environment is leading on land-based clean-up operations and are actively working with volunteers and non-governmental organisations in order to co-ordinate and safely manage the efforts to clean the shoreline.
A shoreline clean is being planned to take place on Sunday in conjunction with the ESG, GONHS and the Nautilus Project. Those wishing to volunteer should write to the Department of the Environment on firstname.lastname@example.org with their name, contact details and any particular skills or experience which might be relevant.
Any sightings of oiled seabirds should be reported to the EPRU on 58009620.
The Gibraltar Contingency Council will reconvene again this evening at No 6 Convent Place.