New Flame: Wreck Works Completed & £5.5m Compensation

More than two years after the Panamanian cargo ship 'MV New Flame' sank in Gibraltar's territorial waters wreck removal works have been completed; Government received £5.5m compensation which it will invest in "environmental protection and enhancement", the Gibraltar Chronicle wrote today.

The complex "operation to neutralise the danger to maritime safety, and the harm to the marine environment, posed by the wreck of the MV New flame has been completed," wrote the Chronicle. According to the daily the Gibraltar Government was very pleased with the result and the combined effort of "many Government departments, the Salvors, the Swedish Club [the insurers responsible for the wreck removal] and Gibraltar environmental groups".

Remaining pieces of the wreck will stay on the seabed: The independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by the renowned US company Polaris Applied Sciences Inc. had shown that "attempting to remove the remaining scattered bits of cargo, and the remaining bits of the hull itself, would cause more damage to the sea-bed and its marine environment (because of the abrasive nature of the recovery methods that would need to be employed) than leaving the remaining bits where they are. In sharp contrast to the damage that would be caused by attempts to remove the remaining pieces, leaving them in situ will enhance the marine life habitat, and will result in a very desirable diving and angling site," the Chronicle wrote.

Our charity is more than delighted about these findings as we have had the same concerns about a potential removal of the remaining wreck pieces. Instead we had hoped to claim the remains for Gibraltar’s Artificial Reef which we have constructed over the past 30 years. Especially at the location in question – called ‘Los Picos’ - the removal of the wreck would have caused significant damage to that reef (for more information go to Artficial Reef Project – A First in Europe !).
While according to the Chronicle the aftermath of the cargo’s sinking has resulted in a "mainly insurance financed operation" of "some $120 million ... the incident has ironically benefitted the local economy by some £20m in services such as scrap removal" and has not cost the taxpayer. The results of the EIA "now allowed considerable sums to be saved and Government negotiated [£5.5m] compensation of this which it has earmarked for environmental matters", the Chronicle wrote, adding that the Gibraltar Government concluded the settlement agreement with the vessel’s owners and The Swedish Club.

After the announcement of compensation, our chairman Dr Eric Shaw was interviewed by the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). He told GBC that in his opinion the money "should be spent where none has been spent before". As the marine environment is closely linked to the terrestrial environment, Eric said, that investments in marine environment should overlap on the terrestrial side as well.