STOCKHOLM (AP) — A ferry that had ran aground last month off southeastern Sweden and started leaking oil into the Baltic Sea was pulled free on Wednesday and anchored nearby, the Swedish Coast Guard said. During the operation, another oil leak was discovered, which the authorities described as small.
The Marco Polo, operated by the TT-Line of Germany, was operating a route along Sweden’s coast between the cities of Trelleborg and Karlshamn when it ran aground on Oct. 22 and started leaking oil. It continued under its own power, but became stuck a second time.
The 75 passengers and crew were unharmed and were evacuated. The ferry wasn’t at risk of sinking despite taking on water, the coast guard said.
On Sunday, severe weather dislodged it and the ferry drifted further out before getting stranded for a third time.
The leaking fuel eventually reached the shores and wildlife of Pukavik Bay near Solvesborg, around 110 kilometers (70 miles) northeast of Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest city.
It was unclear how much leaked out on Wednesday, but the coast guard said it was “a small amount.” The damaged fuel tanks contained about 160 cubic meters (5,650 cubic feet) of oil before the grounding. The spill stretched over five kilometers (three miles) out at sea.
Earlier, the coast guard said the ferry had suffered “extensive damage” and would eventually be towed into the harbor of Karlshamn.
For now, the plan was to inspect the ferry’s hull and pump out the remaining oil while anchored at sea. The inspection would be made by a salvage company hired by the TT-Line’s insurance firm, the coast guard said.
The TT-Line said Wednesday’s operation will result in “a much more secure situation for the vessel” and also “prevent further impact on the environment.”
More than 500 birds are estimated to have been affected by the oil that washed onto the coast, Swedish public broadcaster SVT said. Swedish news agency TT said that an estimated 50 cubic meters (almost 1,800 cubic feet) of oil and oil waste have been removed so far.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that the ferry company ”bears full responsibility,” and expected it “to fully participate” in the investigation and cleanup work.
Swedish prosecutors have fined the captain and an officer on duty at the time of the grounding, saying they acted recklessly by relying on a faulty GPS.