Fr, 2.12.2022

PHOTOS ⟩ Large traffic jam of ships near Estonia’s coast

Andres Einmann
, Eesti uudiste päevatoimetaja
Large traffic jam of ships near Estonia’s coast
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An unofficial anchorage area for tankers and cargo ships waiting to enter Russian ports in the part of the Gulf of Finland that is part of the Estonian economic zone. On Sunday, 21 ships were waiting there.
An unofficial anchorage area for tankers and cargo ships waiting to enter Russian ports in the part of the Gulf of Finland that is part of the Estonian economic zone. On Sunday, 21 ships were waiting there. Photo: Madis Veltman
  • Twenty-one tankers and cargo vessels were waiting on Sunday.
  • Empty vessels are on the way to Russia to take on cargo.
  • Pollution control in case of possible accidents will be Estonia’s responsibility.

A traffic jam of ships waiting for the opportunity to enter Russian ports has built up in the Gulf of Finland between the Käsmu Peninsula and Finland’s Porvoo. When Postimees flew over the Gulf of Finland in a light aircraft, 21 vessels had anchored in the unofficial parking lot of ships.

The traffic jam had actually shrunk since Saturday since as many as 24 vessels had been waiting for access to Russia according to the Marinetraffic website which reflects the movements of ships.

The traffic jam can be seen from afar. 
The traffic jam can be seen from afar.  Photo: Madis Veltman

«If we should make an emergency ditching in the sea, keep in mind that the cabin will remain under water and the doors must be opened in advance. Inflate the life vests only after you have exited the aircraft, otherwise you will never make it out of the cabin. Swim diagonally backward, away from the engine and propeller of the aircraft,» were the last encouraging words of the pilot Ain before our Cessna 172R Skyhawk took off from the Aespa airstrip and flew towards the Gulf of Finland

The traffic jam can be seen from afar

The armada of tankers and cargo vessels anchored in Estonia’s economic zone some twenty kilometers away from the Käsmu Peninsula can be seen from afar. «There is a lot of them, the humps can be seen on the horizon,» says Ain the pilot a long time before the reporter and the photographer on the back seat can notice the vessels.

The ships seem to be in a tight cluster when viewed from distance, but as we fly closer it can be seen that the intervals between the vessels are hundreds of meters wide. Approximately half of the ships in the waiting area are tankers and the rest bulk carriers.

The tankers were riding high in the water with their bow bulbs visible which proved that their tanks were empty and they were on their way to Russia for cargo. Although the ships are eastbound, most of them have their bows aimed towards the west, possible because of the direction of the wind.

The decks of the ships in the traffic jam are empty. The eye can catch only a few men we pay no attention to the aircraft circling overhead. The island of Hogland is visible on the horizon and its hill tops rising high over the sea are unexpectedly impressive.

Estonia can do nothing

The ships began to anchor the area between Käsmu and Porvoo since 2019 when Russia established the regulations that ships entering the Russian territorial waters must sail directly to the port and cannot stay in anchor anywhere. But the waiting times in the Ust-Luga Port are frequently long so that the ships have to wait for their turn at the berth.

The traffic jam can be seen from afar. 
The traffic jam can be seen from afar. Photo: Madis Veltman

The number of ships waiting in the Gulf of Finland increased since the beginning of the Russian aggression in Ukraine as the pressure for export of Russian oil products increased. While anchoring in the Gulf of Finland, the ships carry out various repair and cleaning operations. It has not yet been determined whether such work could result in pollution.

The Estonian officials cannot do anything against the ships waiting in the roads because staying there is not forbidden unless specific violations have been reported. On the other hand, pollution control in case of possible accidents would be Estonia’s responsibility.

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