What has been feared since Monday now seems to be coming true: The tanker OS 35, which collided with another ship in the bay of Algeciras, has been leaking oil into the sea off Gibraltar since Thursday afternoon. The ship’s captain has been arrested for transiting after the collision.
The collision caused water to enter the centre of the tanker, after which the hull broke. Until yesterday afternoon, the government of Gibraltar said no fuel was leaking into the sea. This was because a sea wall had been installed. Therefore, any released fuel would be collected in this.
Tanker still leaking oil into the sea off the southern Spanish coast
Despite this measure, an unknown amount of heating and lubricating oil has spilled out of the deposit since Thursday afternoon. Following the incident, and the announcement that oil is indeed leaking into the sea, the captain of the tanker was arrested. This was announced by the authorities of Gibraltar.
Shortly after the collision, the captain had refused to follow instructions from Gibraltar. He denied that there was any damage after the collision and chose to continue sailing to sea. Once in Algeciras Bay, he reported that he could not continue because the ship “leaked a remarkable amount of water”. Only then did the captain decide to follow instructions. After which, the entire crew were freed from the ship on Wednesday.
Divers and ships plugging leaks and pumping fuel
The eyes of the province of Cádiz and the Spanish government are now on this area between Gibraltar and the Costa del Sol. The source of the leak lies with two ventilation holes in the fuel tanks. These were previously sealed but have come loose again. Divers are currently plugging the holes to prevent oil from continuing to flow into the sea. In total, the tanker was found to have on board 200 tons of heavy fuel oil, 250 tons of gas oil and 27 tons of lubricating oil.
To prevent the spread of oil as much as possible, the port authorities of Gibraltar and Spain deployed ships on Thursday to pump the released oil so that the oil is removed from the sea as quickly as possible. This operation will take about 50 hours. At the time of writing, the ships have been able to pump up a fifth of the tanker’s fuel.
Fears of an environmental disaster
In the meantime, precautions are being taken in Spain because of fears of an environmental disaster when the leaked oil reaches the Spanish coast. The measures to be taken are currently being discussed with the Government of Gibraltar.
The Department of the Environment in Gibraltar is asking the general public to be vigilant and report any sightings of species in distress to (00350) 58009620.