TALLINN - A passenger ship called Amalie ran into trouble at sea and listed on its route between the small Gulf of Riga islands of Ruhnu ad Kihnu on Thursday evening, however, the situation has stabilized and the vessel continues its journey towards the Latvian coast early Friday morning.
Head of operations at the North Prefecture Taavi Kirss said that Amalie is presently listing at an angle of 10-15 degrees.
"Preliminary data suggests the list may have been caused by shifting cargo," Kirss said in an interview with Kuku radio station, noting that the ship's cargo is vehicles.
As of 6:30 a.m., the listing Amalie had reached within three nautical miles of Latvian territorial waters, with 18 nautical miles still to go to the Latvian coast.
"The vessel is moving very slowly, and it's not possible to predict how long it will take for it to reach the port. But the situation remains stable," Kirss said.
Amalie's journey is being secured by the Police and Border Guard Board ship Valve, the Parnu police vessel Terje, and the research vessel Salme. From the Latvian side, a Latvian Navy ship has been dispatched.
On Thursday evening at around 8 p.m., it was reported that the ferry Amalie, traveling from Ruhnu island to Kihnu island, had listed and passengers on board might be at risk. The Police and Border Guard Board initiated a rescue operation and evacuated people from the ship.
A police helicopter was immediately involved in the rescue operation as well as volunteer and professional maritime rescuers from Kuressaare, Parnu, and Ruhnu units, and the naval ship Valve. After listing, the ferry turned back towards Ruhnu.
Kirss said that there were 16 people on board the ferry Amalie at the time of the listing -- 13 passengers and three crew members.
"The helicopter team evacuated seven people to the island of Ruhnu, one of whom required medical attention and was transported to Parnu Hospital. The helicopter then returned to Tallinn for refueling, but the evacuation of people continued with the vessels that arrived at the scene," Kirss explained.
At around 2:50 a.m., the rescue helicopter returned to Amalie.
"After assessing the situation, it was decided that winching people from the ship at that time was too risky. The helicopter went on standby to the island of Ruhnu," Kirss said.
Meanwhile, the listing ship continued moving towards Ruhnu and had reached 4.5 nautical miles from the port.
At around 4:20 a.m., Kirss reported that due to unfavorable wind direction in the area and the ship's list, Amalie's attempts to enter Ruhnu harbor had failed, and the decision was made that it was safest to head towards the Latvian coast.
Amalie, with six people on board, set course for Latvia and was accompanied by three rescue vessels. The police helicopter remained on the island of Ruhnu to respond if needed, and Latvia also sent a ship to meet Amalie.