Passengers spend night on Baltic Sea ferry that ran aground

HELSINKI (AP) — A Baltic Sea ferry with 331 passengers and a crew of 98 run aground in heavy storm winds Saturday in the Aland Islands archipelago between Finland and Sweden.

Finnish authorities said there were “no lives in immediate danger” and the vessel, inspected by divers, wasn’t leaking.

The Finnish coast guard tweeted Saturday afternoon that the Viking Line ferry that runs between the Finnish port city of Turku and Swedish capital Stockholm hit ground just off the port of Mariehamn, the capital of the Aland Islands.

The coast guard tweeted a photo showing the M/S Viking Grace stuck just off shore.

“Viking Grace has ran aground in front of Mariehamn. Firmly grounded, no leaks….The first rescue units are on site,” the tweet said.

A spokeswoman for ferry operator Viking Line, Johanna Boijer-Svahnstrom, told Finnish public broadcaster YLE that the passengers would stay overnight on the vessel before getting evacuated to shore on Sunday.

The Finnish coast guard said it would be monitoring the ship throughout the night and rescue units were on stand-by mode.

The vessel was en route from Stockholm to Turku with a scheduled stop at Mariehamn. Strong storm winds prevailed in the area at the time.

Coast guard officials told Finnish media that the Viking Grace, a large vessel capable of carrying up to 2,800 passengers, was near the shore when for some reason it seemed to have floated toward land.

Viking Line CEO Jan Hanses told YLE that a strong gust of wind likely “pushed the ship to shore” in the narrow passage close to Mariehamn port.

The number of passengers aboard the Viking Grace was exceptionally low due to COVID-19 travel restrictions currently in place in the Nordic countries.

In September, Viking Line’s M/S Amorella passenger ferry also ran aground in the Aland Islands, an autonomous Finnish territory that consists of thousands of named and unnamed islands. Its shallow waters and narrow passages are particularly tricky to navigate for large ships.

No one was injured in the September incident.

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