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Ice-trapped ferry returns to Sweden
A passenger ferry docks in Stockholm after being trapped by ice in the Baltic Sea.
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2010 18:38 GMT
Shipping companies report there has not been this much ice in the Baltic for over 30 years [AFP]

A passenger ferry with nearly 1,000 people on board has returned safely to Stockholm's harbour after being trapped in ice for hours in the Baltic Sea.

Dozens of other ships and boats had also been stuck as gale-force winds built up large ice masses along the Swedish coastline.

Ice breakers helped release the ferry Amorella at the edge of an archipelago north of Stockholm, which had collided with another vessel as they drifted amid huge blocks of moving ice.

Heavy ice cover is common during the wintertime in northern parts of the Baltic Sea.

But the ice rarely gets thick enough in the Stockholm archipelago to trap powerful passenger ferries.

'Unfortunate wind'

The Regal Star, a cargo ship with 56 people on board, was also set free early Friday, while three other ferries that were trapped in the ice were able to break free on Thursday.

About 26 cargo ships were awaiting help from ice breakers in the northern parts of the Baltic Sea, but the situation was under control, officials 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."

Johny Lindvall, who manages the maritime administration's ice breaker service, said the ferries, nearly all transporting passengers between Sweden and Finland, had run into trouble just outside the Stockholm archipelago, made up of more than 20,000 islands.

"They got caught outside the archipelago, where there is moving  ice. It's hard to navigate," he said, adding that he had not seen a situation with so many ships stuck at once since the mid-1980s.

Most of the commercial vessels had got stuck in the narrow Bay of Bothnia, where the ice is thicker, and around the autonomous Aaland islands.

Sweden has suffered an unusually harsh winter this year, with temperatures across the country almost continuously well below freezing since December.

Source:
Agencies
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