Gibraltar to Sink Stern Section of Grounded Bulker to Seabed

Gibraltar to sink wrecked bulker
The bend and break is visible near the number 2 hold of the OS 35 (GPA photo)

Published Sep 16, 2022 1:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

The salvage team working in Gibraltar on the wreck of the bulker OS 35 has decided to sink the remainder of the vessel to the seabed to prevent further damage from approaching heavy weather. The forward section of the vessel has been resting on the seabed since August 30, but with the number 5 hold and engine room having remained dry the stern has continued to float.

“The Gibraltar Port Authority and HMGoG (Gibraltar government) are confident that the plan proposed by Resolve is the best course of action to secure the vessel in place as far as possible, minimize the potential for pollution and give the salvors the best chance of recovering the vessel efficiently and as quickly as possible going forward,” the port authority said announcing the decision to sink the vessel. 

The committee overseeing the operation reported that they had considered a range of options based on the approaching bad weather. While the sea state has been calm, they are now expecting a six-foot swell and wind gusts to reach as high as 25 mph over the weekend. Sustained winds were forecast at 16 mph with the highest swell expected late on Sunday, September 18. 

An independent salvage advisor, Eric Houtteman, retained by the government and port updated on the vessel’s situation saying it is already effectively in two pieces although the two sections are “still connected together by cracked, bent, and buckled steel. However, the structural integrity of the hull has totally failed.”

The break appeared shortly after the grounding. The forward section which is approximately 240 feet is resting in the seabed with the bow buried by approximately five feet. The stern section, which is nearly 350 feet, however, while partially flooded remains buoyant and would be subjected to movement and twisting during the upcoming storm. Approximately three-quarters of the vessel is currently flooded.

The salvors were intending on Friday to remove all floating and lose items from the vessel. They are also securing the hatches. Previously they had been working to clear and clean the vessel including last week removing over 800 liters of grease and paint from the steering room. The tanks have been drained of all the recoverable oil.

After removing the additional material from the OS35, the team plans a controlled flooding of the number 5 hold and the engine room to settle the stern section onto the ocean floor. Port officials are saying that the goal is to prevent further movement including the possibility that the storm would drive the stern into a more difficult position for the future salvage operation. However, they expect that additional oil will be released and that the swell will drive some material towards the shoreline.