Sunken Swedish Cargo Ship Leaking Oil

HELSINKI, Finland, November 2, 2006 (ENS) - A Swedish cargo ship which sank in a storm off the east coast of Oland Island on Wednesday is leaking oil, according to the Swedish Coast Guard.

The extent of the spill is not clear at this moment because of bad weather at the site of the accident, but the Swedish Coast Guard officials describe it as a reasonable quantity of oil coming up from the freighter.


A Finnlines roll-on rolloff ship similar in size and function to the wrecked Finnbirch. (Photo courtesy Finnlines)
There were 250 metric tonnes of heavy oil and 10 tonnes of machine oil onboard the vessel when it went down. The amount of the oil released into the sea will depend on the extent of the damage to the sunken vessel. This information is also unknown.

Currently, two Swedish Coast Guard ships are at the site, monitoring the situation. The oil slick is drifting south and there is no immediate threat to the shores, the Coast Guard officials said.

Meanwhile, member states of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, known as the Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, have offered assistance to Sweden.

Finland and Germany will be sending their aircraft to monitor the oil spill, but currently heavy winds in the area are currently hampering any air monitoring or an oil spill response operation.

The 155 meter-long roll-on, roll-off vessel Finnbirch with a dead weight of 8,500 tonnes was on its way from Helsinki, Finland, to Aarhus, Denmark, when it was caught by a heavy storm between the Swedish islands of Gotland and Oland.


Crewman aboard a Finnlines ship similar to the wrecked Finnbirch. (Photo courtesy Finnlines)
Thirteen people of the 14 member crew were lifted from the five meter waves by rescue helicopters. One crew member is missing.

The ship was operated by the Helsinki-based company Finnlines.

Oland is a long, narrow island situated four miles off the coast of southeastern Sweden, inhabited by many species of waterbirds and songbirds, cranes and raptors such as the white-tailed eagle. Its east coast beaches are considered excellent for swimming.

The dry limestone grassland called alvar vegetation makes up almost half of the island's area, which makes it as one of the largest areas of this vegetation type in the world.

The Swedish government has applied to have the whole of South Oland listed as a World Heritage Site because of its unspoiled natural habitat and many cultural sites.

The Swedish Ornithological Society runs a bird observatory near the southern tip of the island.

HELCOM works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution through intergovernmental co-operation between the countries bordering the sea - Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and also the European Community.

HELCOM is the governing body of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area, more usually known as the Helsinki Convention.