A chemical tanker was out of control off the Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq coast on Saturday, in very rough seas whipped up by strong winds.
The 202-metre long tanker Chem P was seen being dragged across the waves on Malta’s eastern coast since the morning.
Sources told Times of Malta that the vessel is not carrying any dangerous cargo and is considered a low pollution risk. Its crew was unable to get the ship's anchor to hold, sources said.
Tug boats deployed for rescue
A Tug Malta tug boat reached the scene shortly before 10am and managed to halt the tanker's movement. A second tug boat reached the site at around 10.35am and immediately began trying to hook itself to the tanker.
Transport Malta officers at the scene explained that the two tug boats would be used to pull the tanker further offshore, away from coastal rocks that could cause it to run aground.
As of 11am, one tug boat was at the tanker's bow with the other on the stern. Both vessels were manoeuvring the tanker's bow to face the waves.
The operation is being carried out under the supervision of the harbour master.
In a Facebook post, Transport Minister Ian Borg said that Transport Malta is coordinating the rescue operation and confirmed that the vessel is considered a low pollution risk.
Bystanders gathered Saturday to watch as the tanker veered dangerously close to coastal rocks.
By 5pm, an Enemalta spokesperson said the rescue situation had remained unchanged and divers will carry out a visual assessment once the sea calms down.
The Chem P was built in 1968 and has a carrying capacity of 34930 tonnes. It is valued at $7.8 million (€7.05m). It flies a St Kitts and Nevis flag. The ship was en route to Marsaxlokk from the Spanish port of Algeciras in Cadiz.
Malta was hit by gale-force winds on Friday night continuing into Saturday morning, with the Malta International Airport weather station issuing a gale force warning until 7pm on Saturday. Seas are very rough becoming very rough to high, meteorologists said.
The last tanker to run aground in Malta was the Hephaestus, a 60-metre vessel in 2018. It was stranded on the rocks after a heavy storm and remained stranded off Qawra point for six months before being removed.