Tanker's oil spill hits Danish coast

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The Independent Online

The coasts of three Danish islands have been dotted with small oil slicks that leaked from a tanker involved in a collision.

The coasts of three Danish islands have been dotted with small oil slicks that trapped a few birds, but authorities were optimistic about containing most of the fuel that leaked from a tanker involved in a collision.

A larger slick had slipped into a narrow Groensund strait between the islands of Moen, Bogoe and Falster, while the bulk of the oil remained in the Baltic Sea off southern Denmark.

"We now are pretty optimistic," said Joern Allan Pedersen of the Danish Emergency Management Agency. "The slick (in the strait) is almost still and is easier to contain and scoop," he said, now that winds had died down.

Several birds coated in oil were spotted on the beaches of the Bogoe island, including a few dead ducks. Nearby, a heron stuck in a two–inch thick oil was fighting for its life.

What has been called the biggest oil spill off Denmark happened Wednesday before midnight when an oil tanker carrying 33,000 tons (36,300 short tons) of fuel oil collided with a freighter in international waters between eastern Denmark and northwest Germany.

The cause of the collision was not immediately clear. No injuries were reported.

Danish, German and Swedish authorities set out yesterday to contain the 1,900 tons (2,090 short tons) oil that had leaked into the Baltic.

But gale force winds broke the oil into dozens of slicks and pushed them northwest to the islands of Falster and Moen – south of Zealand, the island on which the capital Copenhagen is located.

Late Thursday, a roughly 100–metre wide oil slick had entered the Groensund strait and landed on the coasts of Falster, Moen and Bogoe. Bogoe is located inside the strait.

Seven vessels – including Danish, German and Swedish ships – were at work in the southern Denmark archipelago while an eighth vessel was trying to contain the oil slick in the Baltic Sea.

On land, up to 100 members of the Emergency Management Agency began scooping up the oil and killing oil coated birds.

Both the double–hulled tanker Baltic Carrier and the Cypriot sugar freighter Tern remained afloat, and the leak from the tanker was stemmed. The ship, not fully loaded, had been anchored and the oil from the gashed compartment was successfully pumped into undamaged sections.

The freighter later reached the east German port of Rostock under its own power.

Up to 160,000 vessels sail through inner Danish straits every year.

The most recent serious oil spill was in 1985 when some 300 tons (330 short tons) of oil reached the shores of Laesoe island, halfway between the peninsula of Jutland and western Sweden.

Both those are tiny by comparison to some of the world's largest oil spills such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident off Alaska, where nearly 11 million gallons spilled.