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Contractors Revise Timeline for OS 35’s Wreck Removal Off Gibraltar

Photo of the OS 35 shipwreck taken March 7, 2023. Photo courtesy Gibraltar Port

Contractors Revise Timeline for OS 35’s Wreck Removal Off Gibraltar

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 7991
May 16, 2023

Contractors have provided an updated wreck removal plan and timeline to Gibraltar’s Captain of the Port regarding the final removal of the OS 35 shipwreck. The operation will ensure the wreck is lifted safely and with minimal environmental impact.

Preparatory work to make the wreck’s forward and aft sections airtight is taking longer than expected, causing a delay in the full removal of the wreck by the May 30th deadline.

The contractors anticipate the aft section to be floated out on May 29th, while the operation to lift the forward section using barges will begin on June 2nd. The new projected date for the complete removal of the wreck is June 16th.

The OS 35, a Tuvalu-flagged bulk carrier, was carrying a cargo of steel bars when it collided with an LNG carrier in the Bay of Gibraltar in August 2022. The bulk carrier was then anchored off Catalan Bay on the opposite side of the Gibraltar peninsula, where it partially sank and later broke up, resulting in the release of fuel oil.

The condition of the wreck has slowly deteriorated since its initial grounding. Last September, salvors conducted a controlled sinking to stabilize the wreck for heavy weather. The wreck survived a series of storms relatively unscathed in early March, but adverse weather in April resulted in the complete separation of the previously damaged ship’s hull.

All possible extractable oil was removed from the wreck during the initial salvage phase last year, leaving only a small amount of oil residues on board. Cargo removal concluded in late April with the removal of 33,632 tonnes of steel bars.

Preparations for the refloating and lifting operation involve establishing airtight seals in all compartments of the forward section, with experienced divers working at maximum capacity to seal and test the compartments. Once the forward section is confirmed airtight, divers will proceed to seal the compartments in the aft section. This process will lighten the load to be lifted.

Removal operations will start with refloating the aft section, followed by physically lifting the forward section from the seabed using the lifting points. Chains will be passed under the hull to reinforce stability and provide control during the lifting process. Each section will be lifted out of the water alongside a semi-submersible barge.

The Gibraltar Port Authority reports that the refloating and lifting stages pose a risk of releasing oil residues still trapped in the wreck. To mitigate the impact, the GPA is working closely with the contractors, Koole, and the Department of Environment to finalize detailed oil spill response plans.

Containment booms will be placed around each section of the wreck to control any escape of residues. Additional contingency plans, such as preventive booms and increased patrols, are in place to minimize the environmental impact.

“The works to remove the OS 35 are progressing well, but the reality of the state of the wreck is dictating the pace of operations,” said Gibraltar’s Captain of the Port, John Ghio. “It is vital that every stage is completed in a careful, deliberate, and safe manner. While the short delay for its final removal is unfortunate, it is the only safe way to mitigate potential future pollution and minimize the impact on the environment and Gibraltar’s coastline. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the public for their patience throughout this extremely complex and delicate process.”

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