Cargo ship leaks fuel near Gibraltar sparking environmental concerns

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Residents in Gibraltar fear an environmental catastrophe after heavy fuel oil leaked from a ship stranded off its coast following a collision on Monday.

The Port Authority said a small amount of oil escaped the perimeter of a boom placed to contain any spill. A second barrier is planned to be deployed to prevent further damage.

The oil is being collected by two vessels from Gibraltar Port Authority and Spanish Maritime Rescue. Divers sent to the ship have already sealed two vents in the fuel tanks, believed to be the source of the leak.

The ship has stored 215 tons of heavy fuel oil, 250 tons of diesel and 27 tons of lubricating oil, according to Spanish media reports.

The extraction is set to last around 50 hours. But residents are concerned that this is too slow to prevent further damage.

"Fifty hours is almost three days. With the wind that is blowing, if there is an oil spill we are going to have a spill all along the coastline”, said Antonio Muñoz, a spokesperson from Verdemar-Ecologists in Action, a Spanish confederation of ecological groups.

On Friday, the mayor of a southern town in Spain said that the oil slick has reached a nearby beach.

La Línea de la Concepción Mayor Juan Franco said fuel from the leakage had been pushed by winds and currents to the beach.

All port operations at Gibraltar port are currently suspended to concentrate efforts on the emergency. The full environmental impact of the spill is not immediately clear

The captain of the damaged ship has been detained for allegedly not obeying Gibraltar port orders initially after the collision.