On 29th August 2022 a bulk carrier fully laden with some 33,632 MT of steel rebar, collided against an LNG Carrier during departure from Gibraltar western anchorage, which caused breach of the forward cargo holds, resulting to the Master deliberately beaching the vessel off Catalan Bay Beach to avoid her sinking.

Our Gibraltar Office was instructed to attend on behalf of H&M Underwriters and P&I Insurers. Our Senior Surveyor Matthew Byrne immediately coordinated with involved parties and made urgent arrangements to attend on board at Eastside anchorage to ascertain the circumstances that led to the collision and subsequent beaching, as well as the extent of damage to the vessel.

At the time of our attendance the vessel’s bow was resting on the vessel’s seabed at a depth of approx. 17m, whilst No.1 cargo hold and deck was fully submerged under water and No. 2 & 3 cargo holds full with water up to sea level (tidal).

In the initial stages of the casualty, extensive efforts were made to coordinate all responsible parties, whilst constant communication was established with Gibraltar Port authorities for mobilizing all resources necessary for minimizing potential oil pollution impact during Salvage operations.

In close cooperation with the SCR on board, assessment of the possibility of vessel’s refloating was carried out, in order to shift her to a safe berth. Additionally, contingency plans were jointly formed and an Emergency Team was established from our Office in order to facilitate effective communication and coordination between all parties / authorities.

During salvage operations on 31st August, vessel sustained catastrophic failure/breakage of the hull girder in way of Fr. 135 (buckled and sheered), rendering the potential repair of the vessel beyond economic and/or technical viability. H&M Underwriters were timely advised regarding the loss and from that point onward all efforts concentrated in the efforts and inspections for the prevention of pollution in the area.

Given the hull breakage, the HM Government of Gibraltar declared a major accident (MAJAX) under the provisions of the Civil Contingencies Act, which in turn dictated that all available resources would be directed for dealing with the emergency. Thus, all other daily operations at Gibraltar Port were interrupted to ensure availability of resources and as a result:

  • All GPA service crafts remained on standby;
  • All anti-pollution booms at GPA’s disposal were deployed;
  • Vessels deployed in U-formations with booms in order to start collection in the event of further oil spill from the vessel or the primary boom;
  • Additional booms were deployed along the coastline which was at risk of direct impact;

At our Firm’s initiative and after advising the P&I Club accordingly, we carried out beach / shore line surveys of the local Gibraltar and Spanish coastlines to assess and document the extent / impact of oil pollution in the area. At the same time, we were in close cooperation with the ITOPF Technical Advisor who was eventually later engaged for further beach & shoreline surveys.

The wreck removal tendering process is in progress to the date of this article, under the coordination of the attending SCR, whilst the cargo still remains in the vessel’s cargo holds. During the entire duration of our attendance on board, continuous monitoring of the subcontractors’ costs was carried out for continuous and proactive reporting to our Principals.