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Germany: Oil spill shuts down key shipping lane

An oil spill has forced shut the Kiel Canal, an important shipping lane in northern Germany, until at least Saturday, officials said on Thursday evening.

Known as the Nord-Ostsee-Kanal (NOK) in German, the canal is an important passageway and an extremely busy one since it links the North Sea with the Baltic Sea.

The canal is about 100 kilometers (62 miles) long and is among the world’s busiest man-made shipping routes.

Oil recovery operation underway

An oil spill from a pipeline near Brunsbüttel port in Germany’s northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, has forced shut the canal until Saturday noon, said Robby Renner, who was heading emergency operations.

The port, located at the lower Elbe River, is a strategically important one since it offers direct access to North and Baltic Sea as well as to European inland waterways.

The pipeline leak was first discovered on Wednesday.

Oil spill clean-up vessels continued operations through Thursday, Renner said. Unfriendly weather, particularly the wind, were set to complicate efforts on Friday.

Some 30 ships are currently blocked from passing through the canal.

Spill raises environmental concerns

Birds covered in oil have also emerged from the waters, though the numbers appear to be on the lower end, local public broadcaster NDR reported.

NDR reported that Schleswig-Holstein state environment minister, Tobias Goldschmidt, paid a visit to the site of the spill on Thursday.

“The situation is serious. There is oil in the water. There is too much oil in the water. Emergency services are working hard and with great commitment, and for that, I am very grateful,” Goldschmidt said.

He added that the spill is currently a carpet of oil that has spread over 6 kilometers.

It is currently unclear how much oil in total has leaked from the pipeline and who much has possibly seeped into the ground.

Officials decided to close the canal until Saturday out in an effort to protect the seas from contamination.

Some 100 fire personnel and volunteers are also assisting with removing contaminated surfaces on the shore.
Source: Deutsche Welle

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