The hull of the OS 35 bulk carrier beached off Catalan Bay earlier this week has broken in two, the Gibraltar Government said in a statement.
Although the two sections have not yet fully separated this represents a much greater danger of an oil or diesel spill.
“There was a clear risk that this would occur,” said the the statement.
“It was for this reason that urgent attempts were being made to remove fuel from the vessel.
“This has not yet been possible.”
Fortunately, so far ‘no oil spill appears to have occurred’ but the situation was being ‘constantly monitored’, the statement reported.
Salvage crews had already placed an ocean boom, used to control the spread of any fuel leaks, around the cargo ship.
Gibraltar Port Authority (GPA) officials and meeting with the local salvage crew and the ship’s accident managers to examine what may happen next.
All 24 members of the OS 35 crew have now been evacuated safely, as well as six surveyors who were also on board.
Gibraltar Port is at a standstill as all resources are focused on this escalation of the current emergency.
Salvage plans foiled
The only spill so far was the hydraulic fuel of the front crane and this has so far been contained.
Plans were already underway to unload the fuel oil, diesel and lube oil to a bunker barge.
This would involve 50 hours of pumping under strict supervision.
Divers had inspected the gash on the hull to later build a cofferdam to patch it up.
But this would have taken a few weeks, which is now unlikely to be an option after the splitting of the hull.
Only 700m away on the beach, late summer season bathers watched anxiously as the fragile environment they have always taken for granted came close to collapsing.
The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo thanked Spain for their help in securing the site.
Salvage and coastguard ships from Algeciras are currently deployed at the site of the beached ship.
He also talked to La Linea mayor Juan Franco on the possible danger to beaches in his town.
Contingency planning groups are now deciding what to do next.
The Olive Press will keep you updated throughout the hours ahead with more updates.
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