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  • ESG Reacts to Major Port Fire 1st Jun 2011


    The ESG believes Gibraltar needs to take on board lessons from yesterday’s major fire at Western Arm where Nature Port Reception Facility (NPRF) Plant, previously known as SLOP Oil, then Sort Oil, blazed for over 15 hours producing a toxic plume which for the main, was fortunately blown away from residential areas. This is a real blessing. Had the wind blown towards the town area the consequences could have been very different and impacts even more widely felt.

    We would like to thank our emergency services for their incredible efforts in handling the incident. We would also expect that given the scale of oil related activity locally that best possible resources would be available to the services and will wait to hear the official incident report before commenting further on this.

    It is clear to us, however, that all fuel activity whether land or sea based in Gibraltar requires that best practice is applied and the precautionary principle adhered to. However, even with these in place, it is still difficult to provide sufficient safety to the community due to the proximity of such activity to residential areas. This was highlighted most clearly during yesterday’s worrying incident.

    The ESG would like to see a future Gibraltar less reliant on fuel related economy and based on more sustainable activity for our own benefit and have included such concerns in our published “Wish List 2011” which can be read at www.esg-gib.net


    Contd/.. for info:

    In the context of the major fire we would like to highlight the following:

    1)     Planning issues are at stake here with inappropriate location of industry and residential areas resulting in conflict; berthing cruise liners next to industry is also a serious problem;

    2)     Fuel business in Gibraltar seems to be expanding in every direction even though this represents an associated risk potential – for example: Govt support for possible East Side Bunkering –and – the Nature Oil Treatment Plant planning to import and process waste oil from Ceuta and Malta;

    3)     Ongoing activity at the plant has been impacting the nearby residential areas off and on for a number of years now due to noxious smells. Recent weeks saw a spike in complaints and the ESG was in regular contact with both the Port and the Environmental Agency (EA). Indeed having been informed by the EA that the recent increase in fumes was linked to the Oil treatment Plant led us to request permission to accompany the agency on one of its now regular inspections. This was refused.

    4)     We are concerned that air pollution from the major fire could have had serious adverse effects on people. We must remember that the tanks did not contain pure oil, but waste oil and other chemical waste. The ESG has previously taken air samples in the area and knows this for a fact. Therefore, the persistent, toxic plume containing several chemicals could have provoked widespread respiratory problems had it penetrated the nearby estates. We were told this was a potential concern.

    5)     Marine pollution clearly impacts on wildlife but also on our ability to extract seawater via our water intakes, essential for potable water.

    6)     The rapid manner in which this incident developed, which affected many hundreds of people in the frontline, illustrates how widespread the impacts of such an accident can be. Also saw airport closed for considerable time.

    7)     Finally, the ESG would like to emphasise the need to ensure that sufficient stocks of foam are stocked in Gibraltar to address any future oil related fire, be it land based or out at sea as this is clearly vital in safely extinguishing such dangerous fires.