Plans have been announced by the Gibraltar government to end the reliance on floating storage and develop modern fuel storage facilities on shore. The Vemaoil tanker, the Vemaspirit, was previously anchored in British waters in the Bay of Gibraltar and used to supply smaller tankers that delivered fuel to cargo ships. But the Gibraltar Chronicle reports that the government is now committed to finding an alternative at a time of heightened competition in the Strait of Gibraltar bunkering market.
“Some operators have chosen to take storage space at the shore facilities in Algeciras while Vemaoil, wishing to invest in Gibraltar, has been working with Government for a considerable period of time to develop a solution utilising the Detached Mole as a bunker storage facility,” a spokesman for the Gibraltar Government said.
“The intention is to further develop the idea to provide a modern storage facility with state-of-the-art safety and counter pollution facilities comparable with any other shore installation.”
The exact nature of the Detached Mole scheme has yet to be defined but will be presented to the Development and Planning Commission once it is finalised. In the short term, the Vemaspirit will remain berthed inside the port and continue to provide storage for Vemaoil’s operation, transferring fuel to bunker barges in the same way as it did while at anchor.
Gibraltar is the one of the largest bunkering ports in the Mediterranean and its bunkering companies continue to go from strength to strength. 4.2 million tonnes of bunkers were delivered in 2011 compared with just 0.84 million tonnes in 1990 and bunkering is now the main activity within the Port of Gibraltar. Around 10,350 vessels called at Gibraltar in 2011 and of these, 6,181 were supplied with bunkers according to figures from the Gibraltar Port Authority.
The Gibraltar Government, reports the Gibraltar Chronicle insists that the decision develop on-shore storage has nothing to do with Spain’s attempt to ban the use of floating storage in Gibraltar waters, which are claimed by Madrid as Spanish. The Spanish Government, citing environmental concerns, last year passed a law that purported to prohibit the use of permanently anchored tankers for storage in the Bay of Gibraltar.
But while Spanish authorities have no jurisdiction in British waters, the Spanish Government’s move – made against the background of the wider waters dispute – nonetheless made bunker operators uneasy. And with neighbouring ports keen to win a larger part of this business, most prominently the Vopak terminal in Algericas it makes sense for the Rock to make changes to maintain a prominent role in the storage market.
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