I’m back. And what a trip it was! I’ll only comment the end till now:
Today, thursday, 16. of July, I took the perhaps 1000 people carrying Eckerö Line Nordlandia ferry from Tallinn to Finland, crossing the 80 km wide Gulf of Finland. It left at 17:00 and estimated time of arrival was 20:30.
There was a medical emergency on board. A coast guard helicopter was called and it arrived much later when the ship was already visibly close to Helsinki. Perhaps an hour away? I can always check the date of the photos and videos later (tomorrow). There was a long time between the announcement and the helicopter actually being visible. I think one person was winched down from the heli, as well as some equipment. Much earlier, not much after leaving Tallinn, I (and many others) had seen a fainted woman being transported on a wheel chair in the main ballroom, and many speculated it was her who was the medical emergency person. I do not know yet.
I will upload video of the helicopter hovering tomorrow. It was quite close to some of the deck structure. I think it was a pretty small one, Bell Sky Ranger or related model. Definitely not super Puma or any modern enclosed rear rotor one.
Later, when approaching the Ruoholahti western harbour, the ship experienced some electrical problems. I was already on the car deck and most of the lights went off. Many lights on ships have inbuilt batteries that keep them on for some time even when the power goes off so it didn’t get dark really. I just thought it wasn’t anything big. If I remember correctly, the lights came back on, went back off, then came to stay back on.
Then I remember hearing distinct strong rattling sounds. I thought it was the sideways propellers for maneuvering, but it turned out later that they probably were the anchor chains being dropped. The ship didn’t shake at any point so I don’t think there was any contact with anything. (I’ve been on a ship (much smaller though) that hit underwater rocks, and it jumped up strongly, and also sounded a lot different.)
Since I still was waiting for my friend who was the car owner and had the keys, I was getting impatient and went back up a few floors (one pneumatic door didn’t work but the adjacent did, I don’t know if this was caused by the blackout or not) and phoned him (it’s impossible to find anyone on such a ship). He said he was at the stern and we weren’t going to land anytime soon. So I went there. And finally there were announcement on the speakers on all the languages (Finnish, Swedish, Estonian, English) that they are experiencing electrical problems, are anchored in front of the pier and are waiting for tugs to come help and it’s just an inconvenience.
We could literally see the pier about 200 m in front of us from the rear of the ship while waiting for the tugs to tend our disabled ship in. It had already turned around to back into its slot behind the faster green Tallink ship (that would have cost doubly for us, but would have left later and arrived earlier!), when the blackout apparently hit. A dangerous situation.
Eventually two tugs, Hektor and Protector (or some such) arrived and ropes were thrown and we were put safely to the intended spot on the pier and could go to land.
It could have been much more dangerous though. I’m not clear what maneuvering capability remained during and after the blackout.
If it had happened for example when crossing paths with some tanker or other ferry in the very busy gulf of Finland, a large accident could have happened in a very short time frame. I also don’t know what would have happened if it had hit the pier with a swinging motion. It is always very potentially dangerous when a vessel becomes unable to maneuver.
I think this is a serious incident and should be investigated thoroughly. It’s good that there are mandated safety systems on ships like lights with batteries, anchors etc. They were definitely helpful in this case.