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Tensions Over Gibraltar Oil Spill by Carlos Perona Calvete

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Tensions Over Gibraltar Oil Spill

On Monday, August 29th, during a maneuver off the port of Gibraltar, the OS35 carrier collided with LNG tanker Adam, according to a statement issued by the latter’s shipping company. The OS35 was reported as storing 183 tons of heavy fuel oil, 250 tons of gas oil, and 27 tons of lubricating oil.

Gibraltar authorities have said that the vessel continued on its way, claiming to not have sustained any damage. 

However, once it entered the Strait, water ingress into the ship was so significant that the carrier could not continue its voyage, submitting to instructions from the Gibraltar Port Authority (GPA). At that point, the lives of those on board were at risk. 

The OS35 was directed to the Catalan Bay, very close to “La Linea de la Concepcion,” where it could strand itself on a beach without the risk of encountering large rocks. 

The waters in question are claimed by the British authorities of Gibraltar as their own. Their claim is dubious, since it is contrary to what is granted in the Treaty of Utrecht.

The following day, hydraulic fluid leaks were reported to be pouring into the sea, followed by oil leaks the day after (Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively). By Thursday, September 1st, heavy fuel oil breached its containment dike. Thankfully extraction activities began to be carried out.

On Friday, the hydraulic oil spill had reached the beach of La Linea.

It seems the Gibraltarian government acted irresponsibly by failing to ask for help from Spain in order to respond to an incident of such magnitude. It has likewise taken far too long to begin to extract the OS35’s cargo. Indeed, even the decision to direct the carrier to a bed of sand, close to La Linea, where the ship became semi-sunken, seems highly questionable.

Said the mayor of La Linea de la Concepción, Juan Franco:

Given that the incident occurred on August 29, we do not understand why it took until Thursday for extraction activities to begin. If things had been done in time, the risk we are now facing would have been minimized. Part of what has happened is a consequence of the particular position my municipality finds itself in. We share a border with Gibraltar, but, following Brexit, our memorandum of understanding on environmental issues remains undefined.

For his part, the mayor of Algeciras, Jose Ignacio Landaluce, accused Gibraltar of taking too long to report the incident, wasting 

precious time to act. [Gibraltar]’s attitude of not letting anyone into the waters that they claim are theirs ends up manifesting in negligence.

Spain’s leftist-coalition government has accepted the explanations provided by the British colony whereas the president of the region of Andalusia, Mr. Moreno, is calling for a protocol to be drawn up in order to avoid similar incidents in the future.

Carlos Perona Calvete is a writer for The European Conservative. He has a background in International Relations and Organizational Behavior, has worked in the field of European project management, and is currently awaiting publication of a book in which he explores the metaphysics of political representation.