Photo courtesy Gibraltar Port Authority

Salvors to Sink Gibraltar Shipwreck’s Stern Ahead of Heavy Weather

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 11061
September 16, 2022

In anticipation of heavy weather, officials in Gibraltar are agreeing to a plan to scuttle the stern section of the grounded OS 35 bulk carrier in place off the city’s coast.

The plan for a controlled sinking of the stern was recommended by the salvage team at Resolve as the best course of action for minimizing environmental impacts during heavy weather expected in Gibraltar Sunday and Monday.

The OS 35 is currently broken in two sections; the 73-meter-long forward section which is firmly planted on the seabed and an aft section, measuring 105 meters, which remains afloat. The two sections are still connected by “cracked, bent and buckled steel,” according to the latest update from Gibraltar Port Authority. Needless to say, the structural integrity of the vessel has completely failed.

In anticipation of inclement weather, Gibraltar authorities have now approved Resolve’s heavy weather plan, which involves lowering (i.e. sinking) the aft section in a controlled manner in order to stabalize it on the seabed. While the chances of pollution cannot be eliminated entirely, the salvors believe it’s the better option to leaving the wreck exposed to the elements as it is. Doing so could result in the aft section breaking free, further complicating the salvage effort.

OS 35 pictured August 31, 2022. Photo courtesy Gibraltar Port Authority

While all recoverable oil has been removed the wreck, there is a chance that fuel residues and debris could be released into the environment. But to prevent this as much as possible, salvors will work to remove all floating, loose items from the vessel and secure the hatches prior to the sinking. They will also surround the vessel with boom to contain any residual oil that is released.

“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,” said The Captain of the Port, John Ghio. “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.”

With the arrival of heavy weather expected this weekend, the operation is taking place Friday (and could be happening as we type this).

Incident Background

The Tuvalu-flagged OS 35 was outbound from Gibraltar Port when it collided with the unladen LNG carrier Adam LNG in the Bay of Gibraltar on Monday, August 29th. The OS 35 was then anchored off Catalan Bay, on the opposite side of Iberian Peninsula, where it partially sank.

Prior to breaking in two, survey inspections confirmed a gash amidships measuring approximately 10 meters by 4 meters on the starboard side.

The Adam LNG, which is registered in the Marshall Islands, sustained only minimal damage. No injuries were reported on either vessel.

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