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Bulk carrier and LNG tanker collision causes oil spill off Gibraltar

01 September 2022

An LNG tanker collided with a bulk carrier off the coast of Gibraltar on August 30. The collision forced the British overseas territory’s port to close numerous times while the Gibraltar Port Authority worked to prevent an oil spill from spreading.

Image: Gibraltar Port Authority
Image: Gibraltar Port Authority

The incident happened when the bulk carrier OS 35, which was carrying around 400 tonnes of fuel, collided with the ADAM LNG tanker while leaving the port of Gibraltar. OS 35 was directed to the east side of the port in order for it to be safely beached and minimise the risk of the vessel sinking.

The bulk carrier remained stable at first and around 400 metres of boom were deployed to the scene and a 200m exclusion zone was set up around the OS 35. Gibraltar Port was closed for four hours during this time. All crew members on both ships were said to be safe and well, with no injuries reported.

On August 31, divers began a survey of the OS 35 and found a large gash on the vessel’s side. The ADAM LNG did not suffer any significant damage. However, in the evening, the Port Authority announced that the hull of OS 35 had broken and that there was a risk that the ship could break in two. All operations at Gibraltar Port were suspended in order to respond to the situation. At 19:30 local time, the Gibraltar Port Authority declared a Major Incident (MAJAX), enabling the port to ensure the availability of all its resources in order to respond to the incident.

A substance leak occurred from the vessel later that evening which the Port Authority said was lube oil. In a statement, the authority said the oil was contained within the primary boom and all efforts were being made to remove it from the sea using a skimmer and sludge barge.

The situation remained stable overnight with continuous monitoring continuing into the next day with the use of drones and land-based thermal imaging. However, at midday on September 1, the Gibraltar Port Authority confirmed a leak of heavy fuel oil, a small amount of which escaped the perimeter of the boom. The oil leaked from two tank vents from the vessel’s bunker tanks but was quickly brought under control.

In the afternoon of September 1, the Port Authority said that it had begun to pump diesel out of the OS 35 and in to the slops barge that has successfully been brought alongside. Simultaneously, a skimmer was deployed and started to remove fuel oil that had been contained within the boom.

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