The only ferry that sails between West Iceland and the southern Westfjords, Baldur, broke down last Saturday, stranding over 100 passengers some 250 metres from harbour for almost six hours, RÚV reports. This is not the first time the over 40-year-old ship has broken down mid-journey, and the Director of Services at Iceland’s Road and Coastal Administration says she is concerned about safety issues on board the ferry.
Baldur was built in 1979 in Norway, where it transported cars and passengers until it was purchased by Icelandic company Sæferðir around ten years ago. At the time, the company had difficulties registering the ship in Iceland, as the Icelandic Transport Authority doubted its safety. The boat was eventually registered, however, and fulfils legal safety requirements today, according to Jón Gunnar Jónsson, the Transport Authority’s current director.
Repeated breakdowns in recent years
The Road and Coastal Administration is responsible for ferry service across Breiðafjörður bay, but contracts the service out to the company Sæferðir, which owns Baldur. The ship has often had operational issues in recent years. In March 2021, it lost power in the middle of the bay, leaving its crew and passengers stranded for over 24 hours. Its most recent breakdown prior to this one occurred in February: luckily, the ship was in harbour at the time, in Stykkishólmur, West Iceland.
Hope passengers are not in immediate danger
“We are worried about the condition of the ship, but we don’t know the situation perfectly,” stated Bergþóra Kristinsdóttir, director of services at the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration. She stated that it was not yet clear whether there was reason to suspend ferry service at this point in time. “We are monitoring closely and are in good communication with Sæferðir, the operator, and are evaluating the situation,” she told RÚV yesterday.
Asked whether the Road and Coastal Administration believed the safety of passengers was in immediate danger, Bergþóra stated: “We hope not, but we are of course analysing and reviewing all issues. We consider this very serious, and look at this as a serious issue.”
A journalistic investigation conducted by RÚV programme Kveikur in April of this year found multiple safety issues on board Baldur. Many have since been rectified.