Investigation of a possible high-risk shipwreck in Utö waters

Press release 2022-08-29 at 17:31
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Lowering research instruments to the sea. © Photo: Finnish Environment Institute

The marine research vessel Aranda is on the southeast side of Utö this week. A preliminary investigation of the tugboat Simson, which sank in 1978, is underway for a possible oil removal operation.

The Finnish Environment Institute is investigating a possible high-risk shipwreck southeast of Utö, close to the Archipelago National Park, during week 35.

The vessel in question is a tugboat called Simson, built in 1915 and still used in the 1970s. The vessel was overhauled in 1971 and sank in 1978. The wreck is estimated to contain 25,000 litres of light fuel oil.

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The wreck of the tugboat Simson lies partially sunk in the mud at a depth of about 60 metres.
© Image: Finnish Environment Institute

The wreck will be modelled for further measures

The aim of the investigation is to 3D model the wreck for further operations and to find out how it could be drained of oil.

The tugboat Simson lies partially sunk in the mud at a depth of about 60 metres. Working at this depth poses its own challenges. The modelling will be carried out using the hydroacoustic equipment of the marine research vessel Aranda and imaging with an ROV diving robot.

The wreck is located close to a nature reserve. If it were to start leaking oil, in average winds the oil would drift towards the Finnish coast and the Archipelago National Park.

If a spillage operation is decided upon, it will be put out to tender and carried out during 2023.

Twenty high-risk shipwrecks in Finnish territorial waters

The investigation of the tugboat Simson is part of a programme launched by the Ministry of the Environment to improve water protection in 2019–2023. Four wrecks have so far been renovated as part of the project to investigate the possibilities for wreck renovation: the dredger Veli off Hanko, the dry cargo vessels Hanna-Marjut and Fortuna on the Kihti Gulf, and the motor vessel Beatris in the sea area of Iniö. The responsible organisation for the project is SYKE, with the participation of the Finnish Navy and the Finnish Border Guard.

The Finnish Border Guard regards these preemptive measures important for the protection of marine environment. The Finnish Border Guard is the leading national authority in operations related to the prevention of maritime environmental damage on the open sea.

Initially, there are estimated to be about two thousand wrecks in Finnish territorial waters. Many of them may still contain significant quantities of oil or other environmentally hazardous substances. There are about a dozen high-risk wrecks that are rusting away or are located near important or sensitive natural sites.

The Water Protection Programme 2019–2023 is a major contribution to water protection, with the aim of achieving good status in the Baltic Sea and inland waters. The programme will reduce nutrient pollution from agriculture and forestry, clean up oil wrecks, restore water bodies and reduce harmful substances in urban wastewater.

Inquiries:

  • Tommi Kontto, Project Manager, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, e-mail: firstname.lastname@syke.fi, tel. +358 295 252 278
  • Eija Järvinen, Communications Specialist, SYKE, firstname.lastname@syke.fi, tel. +358 295 251 242

Information on the wreck renovation project: www.syke.fi/hankkeet/hylkysaneeraus (in Finnish and Swedish)

Information on the programme to improve water protection in Finnish: https://www.ym.fi/vedenvuoro (in Finnish and Swedish)