Salvage workers have begun to remove steel cargo from the wreck of a bulk carrier that has been aground off Gibraltar for five months.

The first batches of steel cargo have been removed from hold number three of the 35,400-dwt OS 35 (built 1999).

The operation, which the Gibraltar government has demanded must be completed by May, initially faced delays when crane barges Koole 31 and K10030 were held up at the French port of Brest.

However, they have now departed and are heading for the site of the wreck.

Both vessels are expected to arrive in Gibraltar this month.

“Today’s developments represent important progress towards the removal of the wreck and its contents,” said port captain John Ghio.

The salvage contract was awarded to Dutch firm Koole Contractors after an open tender.

The wreck removal is estimated to cost around $70m.

Two parts

The wreck will be removed in two parts, with the larger stern section to be taken away in one piece on a semi-submersible heavylift ship to a demolition yard.

It probably will have to be recycled at an approved shipbreaker in line with the European Union’s Ship Recycling Regulation.

The OS 35 grounded off Gibraltar after hitting the 162,000-cbm LNG carrier Adam LNG (built 2014) at the end of August.