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Baltic Carrier/Tern

Baltic Carrier/Tern
Accident date
Accident area
Kadet fairway, Jutland islands, Baltic Sea
Spill area
Cause of spill
Quantity transported
30,000 tonnes
Nature of pollutant
Heavy fuel oil
Quantity spilled
2,700 tonnes
Ship / structure type
Oil tanker
Built date
Marshall Islands

Incident circumstances

At around 12:30 am on the night of 28th March 2001 during a storm in the Baltic Sea, the cargo vessel Tern collided with the oil tanker Baltic Carrier, at the boundary between German and Danish territorial waters approximately 16 nautical miles south-east of the Danish islands of Falster and Møn, in the Kadet Channel.

The Cypriot-registered Tern had set sail from Cuba and was bound for Latvia with a cargo of raw sugar. The Baltic Carrier oil tanker, registered in the Marshall Islands, was carrying 30,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil. It had set sail from Estonia and was en route to Gothenburg in Sweden, before heading to its final destination in Milford Haven, Wales.

The starboard side of the Baltic Carrier was ripped open by the bow of the Tern. The Tern then proceeded to the German port of Rostock under its own steam.

The quantity of HFO released was initially estimated by the captain of the oil tanker at between 1,500 and 1,900 tonnes, but was subsequently corrected to 2,700 tonnes.

The weather conditions were poor at the time of the incident. As the wind dropped, it changed to a south-westerly direction, pushing the slicks towards Danish waters and the islands of Møn and Falster.

 Ship and cargo

The Tern is a bulk carrier built in 1973 with a gross tonnage of 20,360 tonnes and classed by the American Bureau of Shipping. The Baltic Carrier is double-hulled oil tanker built in 2000 with a gross tonnage of 23,335 tonnes and classed by Det Norske Veritas.

The oil transported by the Baltic Carrier was heavy fuel oil. Despite the fact that this HFO tended to form a stable emulsion rendering it highly viscous, the oil was not left in the water for very long and could therefore be pumped.

On Monday 2nd April 2001, two vessels arrived on site to remove the fuel oil from the Baltic Carrier. Once this operation was complete, the vessel was then towed to a repair yard in Poland on 7th April.

Measures taken and external assistance

In the course of the first few days following the collision, adverse weather conditions hampered response operations at sea. Fifteen Danish, Swedish and German vessels were involved, either to spot slicks or recover the oil. On Sunday 1st April, 940 tonnes of fuel oil were recovered at sea. Airborne and satellite-based surveillance was maintained from the outset. Unlike in the case of the Erika, the weather conditions enabled the slicks to be detected by satellite and the images were made available by the European Space Agency.

Shoreline response and environmental impact

On 29th March, the oil slicks began to wash up on the shores of the four Danish islands in the Grønesund strait. The main areas hit were between Faroe Bridge and Bovsted Battery in the north and between Harbolle Harbour and Harbolle Pynt in the west. A few sporadic oilings were also observed between Skansepynt and Hestehoved.

 On 30th March, a command post was set up in Stubbekøbing by the Danish authorities. Several ports in the area were closed off with booms. Eight clean-up sites were set up,

A workforce of about 220 responders (civil protection and volunteers) worked on clean-up operations. By Monday 2nd April, a stretch of around fifteen kilometres of shoreline had been oiled.

On 1st April, the weather conditions greatly improved, with no waves and no wind. The oil was contained on the water by floating booms then recovered manually or using earthmoving machinery. The oil was then stored on the shore in temporary storage tanks before being evacuated for treatment.

The initial clean-up phase conducted by the Danish Civil Defence Corps was completed on Tuesday 10th April. The local authorities then took over operations.

On certain sites, the second phase of operations, involving the cleaning of rocks and shoreline vegetation, began in May 2001.

In total, 3,950 tonnes of polluted waste was collected by the Civil Defence Corps and a further 6,800 tonnes recovered after 10th April 2001. The collected waste, which contained a large quantity of sand (no seaweed or debris), was evacuated to Nykobing. The rest was incinerated at the Nyborg treatment station. 250 tonnes of fuel oil was found in the bow of the Tern.

In terms of the impact on birdlife, approximately 2,500 dead birds were recovered at sea and on the shore.

European assistance

Further to a request from the Danish Authorities, the EC Task Force was mobilised.  A team of three specialists, one from the European Commission and two from Cedre, left for Denmark on Sunday 1st April 2001. They conducted surveys and drew up a list of response techniques required. Their assignment ended on 5th April. The Task Force experts came to the conclusion that in total approximately 50 km of coastline had been oiled. They provided recommendations on maritime safety in the Baltic Sea as well as in terms of organisation, equipment and training.

Last update on 02/05/2001
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