STOCKHOLM // A passenger ferry with nearly 1,000 people on board returned safely to the Stockholm harbour this morning after being trapped in ice for hours in the Baltic Sea of Sweden's east coast, officials said. Dozens of other ships and boats were also been stuck as gale-force winds built up large ice masses along the Swedish coastline. Icebreakers helped release the ferry Amorella at the edge of an archipelago north of Stockholm.
Rescue helicopters and military hovercraft had been placed on standby to evacuate passengers if needed. No one was injured. The Swedish Maritime Administration said the Amorella had 753 passengers and 190 crew on board. The 10-deck ship belongs to Viking Line, which operates Baltic Sea cruises between Sweden and Finland. Ms Englund said only one ship, the Regal Star, a cargo ship with 56 people on board, was still stuck in the ice. Icebreakers would try to set it free today.
Three other ferries that got stuck in the ice were able to break free yesterday. One of those ships, the Finnfellow, collided with the Amorella when the ice pressed the two ships together, but there was no major damage to either ship, officials said. About 50 ships were stuck in ice along Sweden's eastern seaboard, said Johny Lindvall, who manages the maritime administration's icebreaker service. Heavy ice cover is not uncommon further north, but the ice rarely gets thick enough in the Stockholm archipelago to trap powerful passenger ferries like the Amorella.
"There's no danger for the passengers as long as there's food and drink on board," Mr Lindvall said.
The maritime administration said the ships had ignored warnings about the icy conditions. "Normally we can handle this type of obstacle," Viking Line CEO Jan Karstrom told SVT. "But in this case the wind is unfortunate. It's blowing toward land and it means that (the ice) is packed more and more against land." Three Swedish icebreakers helped free the ship. Finland also dispatched an icebreaker to help out, said Benny Paulsson from a maritime rescue centre on Finland's south-west coast.