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Thursday December 3rd, 2020 9:06PM

Grounded Baltic Sea ferry pulled off seabed, resumes trip

By The Associated Press
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HELSINKI (AP) — A passenger ferry that ran aground in heavy winds in a Baltic Sea archipelago between Finland and Sweden was dragged off the shore and towed early Sunday to a port, where some of its over 300 passengers disembarked.

The M/S Viking Grace was sailing Saturday from the Swedish capital of Stockholm to the western Finnish city of Turku with a brief stop at Mariehamn, capital of the Aland Islands, when it hit ground just few hundred of meters (yards) short of the passenger terminal at Mariehamn. No injuries were reported in the grounding.

The Viking Grace’s 331 passengers and crew of 98 spent the night on board the vessel while the Finnish coast guard and rescue units got two tug boats to drag the ship off the seabed and towed it to Mariehamn early Sunday.

Later Sunday, the ship resumed its journey under its own engines to Turku, where it will be put into a local shipyard for a closer inspection and repairs.

“(The ship) has been cleared by authorities and the classification society Lloyd’s Register to transport passengers to Turku by its own engines,” ferry operator Viking Line said Sunday.

Divers inspected the vessel twice in the Aland Islands and found no leaks or major damages. The Viking Line, headquartered in Mariehamn, said no security risks were involved with Sunday’s transfer trip to Turku.

Viking Line CEO Jan Hanses told Finnish media that a strong gust of wind likely pushed the ship into the shore at the time of the accident, about 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The Aland Islands is an autonomous Swedish-speaking Finnish territory that consists of thousands of named and unnamed islands. Its shallow waters and narrow passageways are particularly tricky to navigate for large vessels such as the Viking Grace, which is capable of carrying up to 2,800 passengers.

In September, Viking Line’s M/S Amorella passenger ferry also ran aground in the Aland Islands. No one was hurt in the accident.

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