The Gibraltar Port Authority, in anticipation of adverse weather conditions that are expected in Gibraltar this weekend, have agreed to the implementation of Resolve’s (the salvors) Heavy Weather Plan for the OS 35.
In agreeing to the plan proposed by Resolve, the GPA and HMGoG sought the advice of an independent salvage expert on the best course of action.
The GPA has briefed local media, the residents of Catalan Bay and the Spanish authorities on the planned operation as interested parties, on the details of the plan and consulted on alternatives to it to ensure that the plan is the best plan available.
The GPA and HMGoG are confident that the plan proposed by Resolve is the best course of action to secure the vessel in place as far as possible, minimise the potential for pollution and give the salvors the best chance of recovering the vessel efficiently and as quickly as possible going forward.
The GPA’s independent salvage expert has advised that the OS 35 is, by definition, already sunk.
The ship itself can be considered as 2 pieces. A forward section, which has a length of 73m, and an aft section of 105m long. The 2 sections are still connected together by cracked, bent and buckled steel. However, the structural integrity of the hull has totally failed.
Approximately, the forward three-quarters of the ship are damaged and flooded with water. Its position in shallow water means that the forward two-thirds of the ship are resting heavily on the sandy seabed.
The aft section, where there is added buoyancy from the dry cargo hold 5 and engine room, is still lifted from the seabed by several meters. This section is light enough to be moved and twisted by the forces of nature during heavy weather, whilst the forward section cannot move anymore.
POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF ADVERSE WEATHER
If the vessel is left in its current position throughout the weekend’s heavy weather, it is possible that it could suffer further damage and risk pollution from unpumpable fuel residues and debris from furniture and loose items that cannot be removed from the ship on time.
In heavy weather, any fuel residues and debris that escape from the vessel cannot be contained.
Leaving the vessel in its current position through the incoming heavy weather could also result in the aft section being moved in an uncontrolled manner to a position that makes further salvage and recovery operations more technically difficult and less efficient.
STABILISING THE AFT SECTION
Resolve’s Heavy Weather Plan involves lowering the aft section of the OS 35 in a controlled manner so that it also rests firmly on the sandy seabed, in advance of the arrival of heavy weather.
This will stabilise the aft section so that it cannot move and twist with the movements of the sea swell, tide and wind.
This will prevent further damage to the vessel and protect the environment as far as possible from potential pollution from unpumpable fuel residues and debris. The risk of pollution can never be eliminated entirely.
Stabilising the aft section provides the salvors with the best possible chance of continuing with the recovery operation successfully and efficiently going forward.
The Gibraltar Port Authority and HMGoG have agreed that the controlled lowering of the aft section should be conducted on Friday, before the arrival of heavy weather at the weekend.
The salvors intend to remove all floating, loose items from the vessel and secure the hatches.
The potential environmental impacts of pollution that may occur during the operation will be mitigated with the boom that surrounds the vessel.
Salvors will then lower the aft section to the seabed by allowing water to enter cargo hold 5 and the engine room in a controlled manner.
Once the operation is complete, all booms surrounding the vessel and at beaches will be removed in order to prevent them from damage in the heavy weather.
The Captain of the Port, John Ghio, said: ‘The plan proposed by Resolve to stabilise the aft section on the seabed is the best option available to prevent further damage to the vessel and pollution that is likely to occur in heavy weather. This controlled operation provides an opportunity to mitigate any environmental impacts from pollution and floating debris, which we would otherwise be unable to contain in heavy weather. The GPA and the Department of the Environment, together with our partner agencies, will monitor the vessel constantly throughout the heavy weather in order to mobilise any cleanup operations as quickly as it is safe to do so’.