Updated: Stena Able to Restart Drifting Ferry After Truck Fire Aboard
Late this evening, engineers aboard the Stena Scandica were able to restart two of the engines aboard the vessel, which had been drifting in rough seas after a truck caught fire on the vehicle deck and caused the ship to black out. The situation had become tense and by early evening the maritime authorities had begun an emergency evacuation while waiting for a tug that had been dispatched to tow the vessel. While they had been able to extinguish the fire with no injuries to passengers or crew, the 35,500 gross ton RoPax was about 14 nautical miles from Gotland, Sweden and drifting toward the shoreline of the island.
The fire was reported at mid-day while the 17-year old ferry was sailing just north of the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic. Stena confirmed that a fire had been discovered on the vehicle deck of the vessel at around 12:30 p.m. The Swedish Maritime Rescue Society said conditions at the site are “relatively difficult,” with reports of waves up to 10 feet and winds around 35 mph. There are 241 passengers aboard in addition to 58 crew.
Pictures and social media postings show that the passengers were moved to what Stena called an “allocated area,” but images showed them on the outdoor top deck in lifejackets exposed to the elements. A small amount of smoke could be seen over the side of the vessel.
The fire caused the ferry to lose power and the Swedish Coast Guard said her anchor was not working. The Stena Scandica was drifting south toward Gotland at about 2 to 3 knots.
Three sea rescue vessels from Sweden were among the first to reach the scene and continue to standby. The Maritime Administration has also had three helicopters on site prepared to assist with an evacuation. The Coast Guard has both an airplane and a rescue boat monitoring the situation as well as pilot boats from shore. The authorities reportedly also asked the ferry Visby that was in the area to divert and standby in case an evacuation was required. A cargo ship also responded to the initial distress call.
They had been preparing for an evacuation but reported after an hour and a half that the fire was extinguished by the crew using the vessel’s onboard systems. Stena is reporting that it believes the fire began in the refrigeration unit of a truck on the vehicle deck. A team of specially trained firefighters from Sweden’s Marine Incident Response Group was also airlifted onto the vessel and is working with the crew to confirm the fire is out.
Swedish authorities said after the fire was extinguished that they did not believe an evacuation would be required and they were expecting a rescue tug would reach the vessel at approximately 8:40 p.m. Stena in Latvia was advising that the ferry would return to the port of Ninashamn in Sweden early Tuesday morning.
After about 7:00 p.m. the Swedish authorities however decided that they should commence an evacuation of the passengers from the ferry, but due to the rough seas they were only able to remove them by the helicopter. Approximately 25 people were flown across to the Visby, which had continued to standby. News reports said that families with children and the elderly were being evacuated, but the operation was later suspended because of nightfall.
The Stena Scandica is now reported to be proceeding at a speed of five to six knots with the trip expected to take up to six hours depending on weather conditions. She is being accompanied by the tugboat and the coastguard on the trip to Nynashamn with media reports saying the mood aboard the ship is calm. The Visby proceeded to Visby, Sweden where she arrived around midnight.
The Stena Scandia was sailing between the Port of Norvik in Sweden and the Port of Ventspils in Latvia when the fire broke out.