Swedish icebreaker 'Oden'

Ice Hampers Baltic Ship Traffic

Drifting ice formations continue to create problems for ship traffic in the Baltic. Late Thursday six passenger boats were stuck in the waters between Stockholm and the Åland islands. Both Sweden and Finland have deployed icebreakers to assist immobilized vessels.Shipping lines of both countries have canceled regular tours until further notice.

In the northern part of the Baltic about forty cargo ships have reported problems with ice formations.

Ice banks between 40 and 50 centimetres thick have caused a number of merchant ships and passengers ferries to become stuck or forced to stay in port. It's the worst Baltic freeze for 15 years.

Jonas Lindvall, controller of the ice breaking unit at the Swedish Maritime Administration told Radio Sweden's Dave Russell that the ice is a real problem.

"About 85 percent of the trade to and from Sweden comes via the sea. There's a lot of industry in the north affected, particularly the paper industry, " he said.

"The ice wouldn't usually be a problem for the merchant ships, the problem now is that it's very windy, about 20 metres per second and that means that the ice is moving rapidly, there are lots of ridges with ice that's making it problematic for the ships, so they need help from the ice breakers to get back to the different ports," he added.

The winds are set to ease within the next 24 hours but the ice will stay for one to two months.

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