Oil slick from cargo ship off Gibraltar reaches shore

Small amounts of oil from a bulk carrier that collided with a gas tanker off Gibraltar has reached the shoreline of the British territory and neighbouring Spain, local officials said on Friday.

A picture taken on 1st September 2022 from La Linea de la Concepcion shows a view of the damaged OS 35 bulk carrier ship in the Bay of Gibraltar, following a collision with a tanker.
A picture taken on 1st September 2022 from La Linea de la Concepcion shows a view of the damaged OS 35 bulk carrier ship in the Bay of Gibraltar, following a collision with a tanker. Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

The head of Gibraltar’s government, Fabian Picardo, told Spanish news radio Cadena Ser that a slick from the stricken vessel had reached “parts of the coast of Gibraltar.”

“But it was a small slick, we don’t want there to be any slick, but it was small,” he added.

Crews have been deployed to “begin the clean-up of oil from the shoreline,” the government of Gibraltar said in a statement.

Gibraltar’s department of environment has received reports “of small numbers of oiled birds,” it added.

Meanwhile the mayor of the Spanish town of La Linea de la Concepcion which borders Gibraltar said an oil slick from the carrier had reached its beach, forcing its closure.

“What has arrived is a slick which, frankly, is worrying but we are not talking about a tragedy,” Juan Franco told local reporters.

The carrier — the OS 35 — has been beached off Gibraltar since the two vessels collided late on Monday off the territory located on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula.

The captain of the damaged ship was detained for questioning on Thursday for allegedly not obeying Gibraltar port orders initially after the collision. No one was injured in the accident.

Booms were placed around the stricken cargo ship but some oil still managed to escape the floating barriers.

Gibraltar officials said on Friday that all of the diesel on the ship had been removed, and the priority now was the removal of the heavy fuel oil that is still on board.

Divers on Thursday sealed two tank vents that leaked fuel from the bulk carrier and the amount of oil that is leaking is “significantly reduced”, the government of Gibraltar statement said.

Gibraltar, measuring just 6.8 square kilometres (2.6 square miles), overlooks the only entrance to the Mediterranean from the Atlantic Ocean, putting it on the key shipping route to the Middle East.

Its strategic location and low tax rates have helped turn it into one of the world’s busiest ports for ships to refuel.

Greenpeace said oil spills will “continue to be a threat” in the Strait of Gibraltar as long as it continues to be “the biggest ‘low cost’ fuel station in southern Europe.”

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Captain of Gibraltar oil spill ship arrested

The captain of a ship that is beached off Gibraltar and spilling oil into waters off the coast of Cádiz has been arrested.

Captain of Gibraltar oil spill ship arrested

The Royal Police of Gibraltar have arrested the captain of a ship that crashed off the tiny British territory and is spilling oil into nearby Spanish waters.

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, referred to the captain without naming him during an interview with Spanish outlet RTVE, but confirmed that he had “many questions” to answer after ignoring Gibraltarian authorities in the aftermath of the spill.

READ MORE: Oil leaking from stricken cargo ship off Gibraltar

After the initial collision, the captain attempted to continue the ship’s journey, but once in the Bay of Gibraltar reported that he “could not continue” because the boat had “notable” water leaks.

“He didn’t stop, he didn’t follow the instructions and said he had no damage,” Picardo said.

A spokesman for the Gibraltar Police has stated that a detained man is “collaborating with the detectives of the Division of Crimes and Protection Services of the Royal Police of Gibraltar.” 

The leak

The OS 35 ship, a Tuvalu standard bearer transporting a shipment of steel bars, left the Bay of Algeciras for Vlissingen in the Netherlands on Monday and collided with Adam LNG, a ship flying under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

Water entered the ship, which eventually broke down on Thursday afternoon and began leaking oil. The OS35 was carrying around 500 tons of fuel, but it should be noted the ship’s cargo was not oil, rather the leak is of its own oil to be used for the journey.

On Thursday authorities began pumping the fuel that was controlled by a floating barrier – known as a ‘boom’ – that was placed around the ship following the discovery of the leak. On 1st September, the Gibraltar government confirmed that 4,000 litres of oil and water had been recovered from the boom so far. 

Picardo confirmed that “from the beginning there has been coordination with Spain” in order to try and stem  the spill and clean up waters off both Gibraltar and Spain.