IVL's oil damage experts on site during clean-up operation
The oil spill from the Marco Polo passenger ferry is a major blow to the already stressed Baltic Sea. IVL's oil damage experts are on site, contributing to the response in Blekinge.
"IVL's oil emergency service has been a voluntary resource in the ongoing operation to combat and clean up the oil in Pukavik Bay. We have visited the oiled beaches and provided experience and advice to minimize the damage”, says IVL's oil damage expert Jonas Henriksson, who has visited the affected area.
It was early in the morning of 22 October 2023 that the alarm was raised. TT-Line's passenger ferry Marco Polo, en route from Trelleborg to Karlshamn and then on to Lithuania, ran aground in Pukavik Bay. The ferry subsequently drifted and ran aground again, resulting in more oil being released. Oil was spread along a long stretch of the Blekinge coast, and threatened the coast of Skåne.
Maria Granberg, marine ecotoxicologist at IVL, who is also on site assisting in the clean-up, says that the oil spill will affect nature and wildlife for many years to come:
"This thick bunker oil leaking from the grounded ship contains toxic substances such as heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that have both immediate and long-term effects. From day one, marine birds are severely affected by the sticky oil, but in the long term the environmental toxins can also end up in fish and mussels that people eat, so we will need to monitor this for a long time.”
The bunker oil used by the ship contains a lot of sulphur, and may only be used if the ships have applied for an exemption and have installed scrubber technology to clean the exhaust gases. But environmental experts and researchers at IVL and Chalmers have shown repeatedly that the technology only causes the toxins that would otherwise enter the air to instead be released into the sea, and have argued in favour of a ban on scrubbers External link, opens in new window. (article in Swedish).
"The scrubber technology allows shipping companies to continue using the cheaper high-sulphur bunker oil instead of switching to more environmentally friendly fuels. What happens is that pollutants that would have ended up in the air are released directly into the sea instead”, says Maria Granberg.
She believes that the clean-up will take a long time, and will be complicated. When the ship is salvaged, there is a risk of further oil spills.
Training courses in oil spill response
The IVL oil spill response team has had continuous meetings with the Coast Guard and the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute to help predict the oil's behaviour and environmental effects. Several of the people with leading roles in this operation have previously attended IVL's training programmes in oil spill response.
"During the week, we also spoke directly with the Swedish Minister for Climate and the Environment, Romina Pourmokhtari. We emphasized the need to quickly improve Sweden's ability to combat and clean up oil. This is due to the threat of the Russian oil transport from St Petersburg through the Baltic Sea and Skagerrak to the world market, which has increased under the sanctions”, says Jonas Henriksson.
In addition to providing experience and expertise in the event of an oil spill, IVL provides training in oil spill response. This training takes place in four stages: the first is basic training in oil spill response, the second focuses on the practical operation of mitigation and containment equipment, the third results in certified clean-up managers, and the fourth and final stage leads to becoming an oil expert in the crisis management team.
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