Contractors revise OS 35 wreck removal schedule off Gibraltar

The contractors have provided the Port of Gibraltar with an updated wreck removal plan and timeline for final wreck removal OS 35 shipwreck. The operation will ensure that the wreck is recovered safely and with minimal impact on the environment.

Preparatory work to airtight the fore and aft portions of the wreck is taking longer than expected, resulting in a delay in the full wreck removal until May 30.

The contractors expect the aft section to be launched on May 29th, while work to raise the front section using barges will begin on June 2nd. The new estimated date for the complete removal of the wreck is June 16th.

The OS 35a Tuvalu-flagged bulk carrier was carrying a cargo of steel bars when it collided with an LNG tanker in the Bay of Gibraltar in August 2022. The bulk carrier then anchored off Catalan Bay on the opposite side of the Gibraltar Peninsula, where it partially sank and later broke up, resulting in the release of fuel oil.

The condition of the wreck has slowly deteriorated since it was first landed. In September last year, salvors conducted a controlled sinking to stabilize the wreck for severe weather. The wreck survived a series of storms relatively unscathed in early March, but adverse weather conditions in April caused the previously damaged hull to completely detach.

During the first phase of salvage last year, all possible recoverable oil was removed from the wreck, leaving only small amounts of residual oil on board. The cargo haul was completed at the end of April with the removal of 33,632 tons of steel bars.

Preparations for the rebuoyancy and lift operation include making airtight seals in all forward section compartments, with experienced divers working at maximum capacity to seal and test the compartments. Once assured that the front section is airtight, divers seal the compartments in the rear section. This operation lightens the load to be lifted.

Removal work begins with refloating the aft section, followed by physically lifting the fore section from the seabed using the lifting points. Chains are routed under the hull to increase stability and provide control during the lifting process. Each section is lifted out of the water along with a semi-submersible.

The Port Authority of Gibraltar reports that refloating and lifting poses a risk of releasing residual oil still trapped in the wreck. To mitigate the impact, the GPA is working closely with the contractors, Koole and the Department of the Environment to finalize detailed oil spill response plans.

Detention barriers will be placed around each section of the wreck to prevent debris spillage. To minimize the impact on the environment, there are additional contingency plans such as preventive alerts and increased patrols.

“The work to remove the OS 35 are progressing well but the reality of the wreckage is dictating the pace of operations,” said John Ghio, Captain of the Port of Gibraltar. “It is important that each phase is completed carefully, consciously and safely. Whilst the short delay in final removal is unfortunate, it is the only safe way to reduce potential future pollution and minimize impact on the environment and coast of Gibraltar. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the public for their patience during this extremely complex and delicate process.”

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