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Portuguese-flagged cargo vessel still grounded off Saaremaa coast

The Bugoe is currently grounded just outside the entrance to Roomassaare harbor.
The Bugoe is currently grounded just outside the entrance to Roomassaare harbor. Source: ERR

A cargo vessel attempting to leave port from Saaremaa became grounded in shallow waters on Tuesday and has remained stuck ever since. Work is set to begin Friday to free the stricken ship, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Thursday evening.

High winds, drifting ice and falling sea levels in the already shallow waters around Saaremaa contributed to the incident, alongside human error.

The freighter, the Bugoe, sails under the flag of Portugal and had headed out from Roomassaare, a port just South of Kuressaare, Saaremaa's capital, late on Tuesday evening.

The Bugoe had been destined for Stockholm and is carrying a consignment of wood chippings.

Location of Roomassaare. Source: Google Maps

However, shoals at the edge of the harbor entrance are the limit of how far the vessel has made it so far, thanks to the drifting ice, strong winds and shallow water.

On-duty harbor master Kaarel Niine said he could not recall a situation like it in his 23 years of working at the port, telling AK that: "While the vessel was here and the putting out, everything was within the limits of maritime law, taking into account windspeeds. The ship's captain claimed he could navigate the vessel in such winds."

However, "it soon got stuck in some drifting ice while emerging," adding that the Bugoe is "certainly grounded."

With the aid of a tug boat, the Bugoe was freed and the captain attempted to turn and return to port, at which point the ship became stuck in its current location.

A pilot was also aboard at the time, Niine went on, adding that this is an advisory role.

The Bugoe is carrying a cargo of wood chippings, estimated at 6,000 tonnes.

Work to free the Bugoe is likely to start from Friday; Niine said that sea levels should rise in time, and this along with the aid of the tug boat should be enough to get the Bugoe out into open water.

Niine added that there are no pollution risks or leaks in regard to the stricken vessel.

Laid-down in 2008, the Bugoe has a length of over 106 meters, a bean of just over 15 meters and a draught of just over 4.2 meters, and sails under the flag of Portugal.

The ship is not the first of this size to have come to grief in the shallow waters around Saaremaa in recent days. Earlier in the week, a Latvian-flagged cargo vessel, the Friendland, trying to navigate the shallow Väinameri, an enclosed sea between the mainland and Estonia's major Western islands, had to turn back after becoming stuck in ice. The Tõll, a passenger ferry which links Saaremaa to the mainland, came to the Friendland's aid, helping it to turn round and proceed in the opposite direction, to the South and West of Saaremaa. The Friendland sails under the Latvian flag.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Margus Muld.

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