GIBRALTAR – Liberian-flag bulk carrier docked in the port of Gibraltar notifies the Gibraltar Port Authority of a major oil spill, early Friday morning.
After the ‘AM Gent’ confirmed the leak in one of the vent valves, the clean-up work started immediately. The Port activated the anti-pollution plan and the investigation started immediately.
The port authority also contacted the port of Algeciras directly to inform of the situation. Two Spanish ships then entered British waters off Gibraltar to prevent the oil from passing the centreline in the bay. The vessel’s operator could face legal action in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
Late reporting resulted in greater oil spill
On Monday, Spanish Press claims Gibraltar contravened ‘Marpol’ in dealing with the oil spill on Friday. They also failed to comply with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. They say Gibraltar authorities informed their Spanish counterparts too late by doing so four hours later. The result was the Port of Algeciras and Salvamento Marítimo were unable to contain the spill. Therefore an oily sheen stretched across much of the north end of the bay. Inside Gibraltar harbour on Saturday thick tendrils of black residue floated on the water emitting a powerful fuel smell.
Under ‘Marpol’, neighbouring countries must be informed immediately of any incident that may affect them. The official line on the Rock was that two Spanish ships had special permission to come into British waters of Gibraltar, to prevent oil from transgressing the medium line in the bay. The reports state Spain did not require any permission from Gibraltar because the country does not recognise Gibraltar’s jurisdiction over the waters around the Rock.
Environmentalists are very concerned about the impact on primarily the birdlife, because there is a lot of feeding fishing birds around Gibraltar waters. According to Janet Howitt, of the Environmental Safety Group, it’s “an emerging situation and we have lots of questions that need to be answered.”
Initial estimates are that around 1,000 litres of fuel oil spilled into the sea. This has not been confirmed by the authorities.