Oil spills can have serious impacts on marine life and the natural environment.
Sweden’s coastguard is racing to clear up a large oil spill after a passenger ferry ran aground on Sunday morning.
The TT-Line ferry Marco Polo “leaked diesel fuel for several kilometres before running aground where it was stuck,” according to an official press release.
The coastguard said it was launching a criminal investigation into the incident and the reason for the fuel leakage.
The vessel was carrying 75 passengers, all of whom were quickly evacuated.
Passenger ferry runs aground in Sweden
The Marco Polo ferry operates a connection between the ports of Trelleborg and Karlshamn in Sweden.
On Sunday morning, the vessel ran aground south of Karlshamn after deviating from its usual route, Jonatan Örn, senior coastguard investigator, said in a press statement.
The accident released a slick of fuel into the Baltic Sea, which reached the coast in the evening, authorities said.
“Investigators are on site to determine the circumstances of the accident,” said Örn
A preliminary investigation has been opened for violations of maritime legislation, he told Swedish public radio P4.
Ferry oil spill was ‘difficult to access’
"We know that the spill currently stretches over five kilometres out at sea," Erik Svensson, who was coordinating the clean-up operation, said in a statement.
The diesel also spread until it reached dry land on a coastal strip located in the municipality of Sölvesborg, authorities in Blekinge county (south) said.
The Swedish Civil Protection Agency (MSB) was called in and will begin decontamination of the site on Monday.
Thick fog prevails in the region, which made it difficult to assess the extent of the oil spill on Sunday afternoon, according to the coastguard.
"We have so far recovered two cubic metres of oil and are currently working on an estimate based on the aerial observation," Svensson said.
The ferry is ‘at no risk of sinking’
Swedish authorities, the ship's command and TT-Line's shore team are assessing the damage to the ferry, the company said in a statement.
The ferry's hull had several holes in the front and middle of the ship and water had seeped into them, according to Swedish news agency TT.
The extent of the damage is under investigation, but there is no risk that the ship will sink, Henrik Pahlm, head of maritime supervision at the Swedish Transport Agency, was quoted as saying by TT.
How do oil spills impact the environment?
Oil spills can have serious impacts on marine life and the natural environment depending on the amount and type of oil and the actions taken to clean it up.
Animals can suffer injuries due to ingesting or inhaling oil as well as external exposure, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
As oils tend to float, the animals most affected live on or near the sea surface in shoreline habitats.
Oil spills can also result in the loss of habitats like wetlands or oyster reefs. “Habitat losses may alter migration patterns and disrupt life cycles of animals and result in erosion of shorelines,” according to NOAA.