Fears of “catastrophe” as New Flame sinks killing thousands of jellyfish
A DIPLOMATIC row has flared up after a ship caused a huge oil slick off the Gibraltar coast.
Spain summoned British ambassador Denise Holt to explain why a vessel that had a collision six months ago is still polluting nearby shores.
Cargo ship New Flame, which ran aground off Gibraltar in August, has now sunk beneath the waves in recent bad weather.
According to ecological groups, the leak has caused “irreparable damage” to the ecosystem of parts of the coast of Andalucía.
The Junta confirmed that 65 tonnes of fuel was removed from beaches after a kilometre-long oil slick washed ashore.
Beaches have been badly affected and thousands of jellyfish and dozens of birds have died.
Spanish authorities are now threatening legal action, including damages, for the cost of the clear up operation.
There are fears that the sunken vessel, which collided with an oil tanker, will continue to leak the 42,000 tonnes of fuel it was carrying.
Authorities from the colony have played down the potential damaging effects of the oil, claiming it “non toxic.”
“It was a small slick of light fuel oil, which was dealt with. And although we regret there has been an incident affecting Spain’s coast, everything possible is being done,” Gibraltar Chief Minister Peter Caruana said.
But ecologist groups disagree. “This is a clear indication that the waters here are now highly contaminated,” said Juan Antonio Carrasco.
“Only time will tell if other species, such as dolphins, will be affected.”
Madrid, meanwhile, claims that Gibraltar did not deal with the stricken vessel adequately, despite New Flame gradually leaking oil since the collision with a petrol tanker last August.
The regional government has also asked the European Union to launch an investigation into the spill, accusing Britain, which has sovereignty over the colony, of inaction.
“There was a clear negligence on behalf of the authorities – namely the British government – to avoid this irreparable damage from happening,” said a spokesman.
The complaint follows a refusal of help to repair the vessel before it sank.