Wreck of OS 35 Off Gibraltar Will be Removed in the Coming Weeks
The Port of Gibraltar reports that plans are being finalized for the removal of the wreck of the bulker OS 35 with the operation slightly behind the anticipated schedule. They point out that it will be a variety of intricate operations to remove the wreck of the 584-foot bulker which has fully broken in two and sits on the sea floor nearshore.
The government of Gibraltar had established a deadline on May 30 for the removal of the wreck, but the contractor Koole has advised they are slightly behind schedule. They completed at the end of April the removal of the 33,632 tons of steel bar, which had been the cargo aboard the vessel when she was departing Gibraltar at the end of August 2022 and struck a gas carrier at anchor in the harbor. However, the contractors have also had to deal with storms including one earlier this year that caused the aft section of the wreck to shift and completed the separation between the two sections. They now anticipate the removal project will be completed on June 16.
“The works to remove the OS 35 are progressing well, but the reality of the state of the wreck is dictating the pace of operations. It is vital that every stage is completed in a way that is careful, deliberate, and safe,” said Captain of the Port, John Ghio, in the most recent update. “Whilst the short delay for its final removal is unfortunate, this is the only safe way to do so that mitigates the potential future source of pollution and minimizes the impact on the environment and Gibraltar’s coastline.”
The salvage team is preparing the wreck for removal through a series of steps. They have been drilling into the structure to create lifting points. Divers are also working their way through the wreck starting with the forward section to seal and test the compartments to make them airtight. These steps will help to lighten the load during the lift process. They started with the forward section and then will move to the aft sections making these preparations.
Drilling is underway to create lifting points in the hulk (Gibraltar Port Authority)
The provisional date for the removal of the aft section, which is planned to proceed first, is May 29. As the stern section was less damaged, they plan to reverse the process that was used last fall to lower the hulk to the sea floor and re-establish buoyancy on the stern section. It will be positioned alongside a semi-submersible barge before being lifted out of the water.
The forward section, which sustained additional damage when the OS 35 struck the gas carrier and after sinking to the sea floor, will entirely need to be physically lifted using the lifting points. Once it is clear, they plan to pass additional chains under the hull to reinforce stability and provide further control during the lifting process. They anticipate this will happen on June 2.
Efforts are also underway to finalize a tactical oil spill response plan anticipating that trapped oil residues will be released as the hulk is lifted and removed. They are planning to use booms around each section and the contractor reports they have oil spill response assets on site to deal with any potential oil release.
The lifting and removal operation and the potential for a release of oil are not anticipated to impact port operations. The teams however are conscious that it is happening during the beach season and are trying to limit the impact to the shoreline.