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  • South District Air Pollution 030817


    3rd August 2017


    Recent south district air pollution levels have been causing concern among residents. Aside from impacts from background shipping, bunkering and temporarily sited skid generators, two factors could well have exacerbated conditions during the hot and close weather towards the end of July. Strong smells of gas, apparently emanating from across the bay, affected a large section of the south of Gibraltar on the afternoon of the 25th July, and although short-lasting, caused significant concerns. It is hoped that the Gibraltar Government is following up on what could be a transboundary pollution incident of significant effect. The second was a particularly intensive vessel overhaul recently undertaken at the dockyard.

    The ESG came across an online shipping report on the recent completion of a 12-day programme of works on MN Tangara carried out by GibDock, ending in the last week of July. Works were indeed extensive and included multiple tasks carried out in parallel with each other. Among these was painting of a surface area of 12,300m2 (including hull, superstructure, funnel, crane, etc.), pipe and propulsion works, in-situ bonding of stern tube seals, ventilation works, electrical and more besides. This suggests that various industrial processes and materials were used that would have, combined, produced intense, fumes of all types. Such fumes spread rapidly in hot weather and it is no wonder people have felt the full impact as reports indicate.

    Despite the nausea and distress caused when particularly heavy fumes enter homes, the air monitoring stations are still recording legal limits on certain pollutants (as not all stations measure all pollutants). This demonstrates once again how Gibraltar should be raising EU safety thresholds due to the proximity of polluting activity to housing. It is noted that the VOC benzene analyser has been out of action for some time, which needs replacing, especially as large paint contracts are being carried out.

    It is disheartening to note that, despite efforts to address south district pollution via the re-introduction of onshore power connection at the Dockyard, increased monitoring of the site by agencies, and the mothballing of two very polluting power stations, that residents continue to be affected in 2017. It calls for more scrutiny over the nature of works that can be carried out as well as the time of year these can be done in. The placing of hundreds of people right alongside the dockyard has undoubtedly created a difficult and unsustainable situation, which needs to be looked at very carefully. 2017 has been an especially busy year for the dockyard with multiple vessels in for service at any one time. It could be useful for an on call telephone number to be provided by the company so that residents can report issues of excessive noise and air pollution as they are happening. GibDocks recent ISO environmental accreditation should encourage fence line monitoring and community feedback.


    The ESG is also aware of the impacts from pollution in the NW district especially during these hot months and continues to lobby for real-time monitoring to be set up in this zone.


    See link for shipping report referred to in the Press release: