On 21 August 2022, Moss municipality notified that an area with oil pollution had been registered in Mosssundet. It would later turn out that the oil came from the shipwreck MS “Nordvard”, which lies at the bottom of the strait. The ship was used as a freighter by Germany during World War II, before being sunk by Allied aircraft in 1944.
A few days after the spill was discovered, Moss municipality ensured that bilges were placed in the sea around the shipwreck. The aim was to collect as much as possible of the discharge while it was in progress. But it never stopped.
Throughout the winter, there has been a steady flow of oil up to the sea surface where the bilges have been lying.
[ Skip fra 2. verdenskrig får skylden for oljeforurensning i Oslofjorden ]
Can’t cover all expenses
Moss municipality has now been working on collecting the oil for over half a year. It has cost.
According to Torunn Årset, director of planning, environment and technology in Moss municipality, they have received NOK 1.8 million from the Coastal Administration for the work to keep the discharge in check. This sum only applies to work in 2022, but it is agreed that the Norwegian Coastal Administration will cover all direct costs beyond that period as well.
However, the year estimates that the real cost is twice as high. These are costs that the municipality will not have covered by the state, and are mainly related to salary expenses. Employees in the municipality have spent many working hours on the spill. Working hours that they would otherwise spend on other tasks.
– There have been many indirect costs linked to this discharge, confirms marsh mayor Hanne Tollerud (Ap).
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Hoping for oil-free seas for the swimming season
Several months after the leak in the Oslo Fjord was discovered, the Coastal Administration finally started a process to stop it. The work to empty the shipwreck of fuel is out for tender until next week. According to Tollerud, the plan is for the tender winner to start work around Easter time.
– Hopefully they will be finished by 15 June, she says.
In that case, almost ten months will have passed since the municipality first notified about the discharge.
– I wish it hadn’t taken so long, says the mayor.
Hoped it would stop on its own
John Evensen, senior adviser in the department for environmental preparedness at the Coastal Administration, explains that they have been waiting for the situation in the hope that the leak would stop on its own.
– As the spread has been under control throughout the autumn, and since it is impossible to say how much oil is left in the wreck from the previous emptying, we chose to see if the leakage subsided before we started a tender. When it did not abate, the Coastal Agency started work on the tender in December 2022. A tender takes time to complete and the time frame must comply with the law, he says.
According to Evensen, rust in the hull is one of the reasons for the ongoing leak.
– We look forward to getting started with the emptying of the wreck and hope to have emptied the wreck by the summer, he says.
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More extensive emissions than expected
On Tuesday, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bjørnar Skjæran (Ap) was in Moss to be briefed on the spill and the work that the municipality has done afterwards. He says it has been difficult to estimate exactly how much oil and fuel is left in the old shipwreck from World War II.
– The estimate here was that it should be somewhere between 250 and 2,000 tonnes. The leak that has come now in the last year tells us that there is more, he says.
According to the minister, there has never been any doubt that the Coastal Administration will cover the costs of stopping the discharge.
– We have legislation that is very clear. The owner of the vessel is responsible. Then there is a division between the state, the Coastal Administration and the municipality when it comes to acute pollution. The municipality is responsible for less acute pollution. Moss municipality has taken that responsibility. So, when you see that a major operation is needed, the Coastal Administration takes that responsibility. It has taken the time it has, but now we are ready to start the operation and empty the wreckage, he says.
[ – Når en tømmer et skip som ligger nedsunket kan en aldri få ut 100 prosent av oljen. ]
Tried to stop emissions from the wreck in 2008
This is not the first time that oil has leaked from the shipwreck. Previous spills led to the Coastal Administration trying to drain the wreck of oil already in 2007 and 2008. Over 400 tonnes of oil and diesel were then pumped up, according to NRK.
It would therefore turn out not to be enough.
Tollerud believes that this time it will be possible to empty the wreck enough that there will be no further emissions.
– I have heard that the technology and equipment have improved, so we can hope that things will improve now, she says.
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- Was a Norwegian cargo ship that was hijacked by the Germans in the Indian Ocean in 1940 and used as a supply ship during the war.
- It was sunk during an Allied air attack on 28 December 1944, while at anchor in Moss.
- Today, the ship lies at a depth of around 35 metres, right at the outlet of the Mosseelva.