Burnt-out Mallorca ferry may be towed back to port before it sinks

Authorities want to avoid another potential environmental risk after Canaries shipwreck

Palma de Mallorca / Madrid -
The 'Sorrento' is adrift near Mallorca after it caught fire and was evacuated.
The 'Sorrento' is adrift near Mallorca after it caught fire and was evacuated.

The ferry that caught fire and was evacuated while covering the Mallorca-Valencia route on Tuesday is adrift on the Mediterranean.

After getting all 156 people aboard the Sorrento safely to land, authorities are now focusing on preventing environmental damage that could result from leaking fuel and heavy oils.

The government wants to tow the vessel to port if technicians deem it viable, as there is “a danger” that it could sink in its current location, said sources at the Maritime Rescue agency.

There is a risk that the ferry could sink in its current location because it is in very bad shape after the fire

Authorities are already grappling with another ship that sank off the Canary Islands on April 14 and began leaking fuel oil. Slicks from the Russian trawler have already reached the shores of Gran Canaria.

The deck of the Mallorca ferry has been damaged by the fire, and parts of the metal bridge and loading platforms are bent out of shape.

Agency technicians managed to access the ship on Wednesday afternoon once the fire had been brought under control. They will carry out an analysis of the vessel’s state and possible salvaging options in the coming hours, the Public Works Ministry said.

The Sorrento, which contains 753 tons of fuel and heavy oils, was on Wednesday located 22 nautical miles off Mallorca, drifting away toward Ibiza.

A tugboat has already been sent to the area by maritime authorities, and the ferry’s shipbuilder has hired a second one to assist with the towing if the government decides to proceed.

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The ferry is “in very bad shape,” according to Public Works Minister Ana Pastor, who declined to specify to which port it might be taken. “We need to avoid risks and all variables will be analyzed. We will do what’s in the best general interest, without any risks to the environment.”

If it were to sink, it would go down more than 1,500 meters.

Green groups have been demanding that the government tow the ship back, rather than take it out to high seas at it did with the Russian trawler, claiming it will be easier to deal with a spill near land.

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