In MERCOPRESS South Atlantic News Agency – 06/24/2010
The Spanish Parliament voted Tuesday against a proposal urging a ban on the use of floating storage tankers in Gibraltar. The Popular Party motion before the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission called on Madrid to ask the British Government to force Gibraltar to store all bunkering fuel on land.
It said the use of vessels to store fuel at sea posed unacceptable pollution risks. But the motion failed after the ruling PSOE party voted against. José Ignacio Landaluce, the PP’s MP in Algeciras, said he was surprised at the outcome.
« Spain and the rest of the European Union have legislation that prohibits the storage of fuel at sea for obvious safety reasons, » he said.
« Gibraltar does not have this legislation and, as a result, breaches the rules in Spanish waters in the Bay of Algeciras with the presence of three floating petrol stations. »
In fact, Gibraltar officials said Landaluce’s assessment of the situation was factually wrong, and not just in respect of his comment relating to the sovereignty of British Gibraltar waters. Although floating storage tankers and ship-to-ship fuel transfers are banned in Spain, this is not the case in Europe as a whole.
« There is no EU legislation that prohibits the use of floating storage, » said Captain Peter Hall, the Captain of the Port of Gibraltar.
In any event, the Gibraltar Government has publicly stated on numerous occasions that it wants to end the use of floating storage in Gibraltar. One possible solution is the use of the King’s Line military fuel depot deep inside the Rock.
The site was mothballed some years ago after UK safety standards were tightened following a major explosion in the Buncefield Depot in England. Since then, the vast tanks in King’s Lines have remained empty and will require substantial investment before they can be used again, as will the pipelines connecting the depot to quayside installations in port.
But several commercial operators – including some of Gibraltar’s existing suppliers – have expressed an interest in taking over the facility.
Bunkering – or the refuelling of ships – is the main area of activity for the port of Gibraltar and generates significant knock-on business in other areas of maritime activity. At present, much of the fuel supplied by Gibraltar is stored on board large tankers permanently anchored in the Bay of Gibraltar.
Although the vessels are fully operational and properly manned, their use is routinely criticised by environmental campaigners wary of bunkering operations as a whole. Shifting storage to land would address those concerns.