ABOUT two thousand litres of oil could have gone into the sea during Friday’s oil spill, the Gibraltar Government has revealed.
The cleaning operation is still ongoing after the incident, with environmental groups on both sides of the border expressing their sadness.
Although the company that owns the Liberian registered AM Ghent has confirmed it will pay for the clearing process, the bulk carrier is still being detained in the port.
The ship has claimed the reason for the spill was a faulty valve, although a full investigation is underway to find out the true cause of the natural disaster.
Often human error is to blame for this type of spill, with one of the common faults being the opening of the wrong valve or not checking fuel flow.
“We are now tackling the oil that was spilled and the extent of the time is difficult to say as it will depend on other factors like weather,” said a Gibraltar Government spokesperson.
“The heavy oil has remained within our waters with the bulk of it inside our harbour.
“However, sheening has been spotted west of the bay.
“The total cost of the clean operation is not yet known due to the fact that it is still ongoing.”
Gibraltar’s Environmental Safety Group and the Nautilus Group have expressed their sadness at the bunkering accident.
“These spills will have severe long term effects on our marine environment,” said Lewis Stagnetto of the Nautilus Group.
“Oil leaks can affect locally endangered dolphins by being inhaled as they come up to breathe.
“Longer term these animals suffer repressed immune functions and reproductive capabilities.
“Shellfish, sponges and invertebrates will be exposed eventually as the oil starts to mix with the water column.
“On exposure adult fish typically experience reduced growth, enlarged livers, changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion and reproductive impairment.
“Fish eggs and larvae suffer the worst effects which could impact species population numbers.
“Regrettably, as long as bunkering persists in our waters we will not be spared these events, infrequent as they may be.”
“The threats to birds and sea life are obvious and the ESG demands that every effort is made by the authorities to establish precisely what happened following the apparent valve failure,” said an ESG spokesperson.
“With the significant season for diving birds underway the ESG is particularly concerned by this spill.”
Spanish environmental group Verdemar – Ecologistas en Accion are planning to report the incident to the EU.
“We have security measures in place already with a bunker code of practice that is reviewed on an annual basis,” said the Government spokesperson.
“However after any incident the plan and codes as well as licence conditions will be reviewed with amendments put in place as soon as all lessons learned have been studied.”
Bunkering is one of Gibraltar’s main forms of income, servicing around 1,500 ships a year.