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Captain of OS 35 Gets Suspended Sentence as Lifting of Wreck Begins

OS 35 salvage Gibraltar
Lifting operation to remove the wreck commenced (GBC News/YouTube)

Published Jun 12, 2023 5:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

A court in Gibraltar today, June 12, gave the captain of the bulker OS 35 a suspended sentence for his role in the collision and sinking of the ship that led to a widespread release of oil and environmental damage. He, however, faces additional pollution charges later this week, while the lifting of the hulk of his vessel has also begun after weather-related delays.

Captain Abdelabari Kaddura, a Syrian national age 53, was charged in September 2022 on seven counts after the OS 35 hit an anchored gas carrier and sank on the eastern shore of Gibraltar. While none of the crew was seriously injured, the vessel was a total loss and there was a significant release of oil that washed onto beaches and other protected areas. Small residual amounts of oil have continued to leak from the wreck. Precautions are in place as they expect more oil discharge as the hulk is lifted from the seabed.

Prosecutors admitted to the court that the master of OS 35 had not been reckless but was negligent according to GBC News. The news outlet’s account of the court proceedings said that the defense called the events a “professional musculation,” saying that the captain misjudged the wind and tides as he was exiting the anchorage on August 29, 2022. They noted that port rules only required a pilot aboard when the vessel was entering the anchorage not on departure.

The recounting of the facts said that the OS 35 initially made contact with the anchor chain of the Adam LNG. The contact pulled that gas carrier into the OS 35 and resulted in the damage. The bulker continued to maneuver and was sent to the position where it came to rest by the port authority. Initially, its bow section sunk to the seabed but later the decision was made to lower the stern to the seafloor in response to pending heavy weather.

The judge issued a four-month sentence on the charges of risking a collision and conduct endangering the ship as well as failing to take appropriate action to avoid a collision. According to the news outlet’s account, the judge cited the low culpability weighed against the level of harm caused by the incident. The court suspended the sentence for one year meaning as long as the captain does not commit additional offenses in the next year, he avoids jail time on these charges.

The Magistrates’ Court however on Thursday is scheduled to address additional pollution charges. The charges include damaging a breeding ground for a European Protected Species. The oil also damaged an antiquities site, Gorham’s Cave.

The court hearing took place as the operation to lift the stern section of the vessel is underway having started on Saturday, June 10. The Captain of the Port, John Ghio, said the salvage team had been successful in freeing the stern which was embedded in the sand. The process was delayed by high surf and winds after they previously said in a revised timeline that the operations would have been completed by the beginning of June. 

Ghio said in a broadcast interview on GBC News that the stern is now free of the sand as they reverse the flooding process and restore buoyancy. Due to the complexity of the operation, he declined to say how quickly the process would be completed. The stern will be the first section refloated and lifted onto a semi-submersible barge. It is the easier portion as they can restore buoyancy. The forward section will have to be lifted by cranes from the seabed because it suffered more damage but is the smaller part of the vessel. Ghio said in the interview, “It could be 5 days … it could be 20 days,” noting that the operation of placing the pieces onto the semi-submersible would be the most challenging part of the salvage operation.