SIRIUS/Joint Arctic Command/PA
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The luxury cruise ship MV Ocean Explorer was successfully freed Thursday, three days after running aground in Greenland with 206 people on board, authorities and the ship’s owner said.
The ship was freed by a fisheries research vessel at high tide, said the cruise ship’s owner, Copenhagen-based SunStone Ships, and Joint Arctic Command, which coordinated the operation.
“There were no injuries on board, no environmental pollution and no hull rupture,” SunStone Ships said in a statement. The research vessel that pulled the cruise ship belongs to the Greenland Natural Resources Institute, a government agency, he said.
The cruise ship and its passengers will now travel to a port where the damage to the bottom of the ship can be assessed, and the passengers will be taken to a location from which they can return home. There was no immediate comment from the travel company that organized the trip, Australia-based Aurora Expeditions.
The cruise ship ran aground Monday above the Arctic Circle in the Alpefjord in Northeast Greenland National Park, the world’s northernmost national park. The park is almost the size of France and Spain combined and around 80% is covered by an ice cap. Alpefjord is approximately 240 kilometers (150 miles) from the nearest settlement, Ittoqqortoormiit, which is almost 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) from the country’s capital, Nuuk.
The Bahamas-flagged cruise ship carries passengers from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. It has an inverted bow, shaped like that of a submarine, 77 cabins, 151 passenger beds and 99 crew beds, as well as several restaurants.
Earlier Thursday, Aurora Expeditions said three passengers had COVID-19.
“These passengers are currently in isolation. They are being cared for by our on-board doctor, medical team and crew, and are doing well,” the statement said. Others on board the MV Ocean Explorer are “safe and sound”, he said.
The Australian newspaper Sydney Morning Herald quoted an Australian retiree on the ship, Steven Fraser, as saying: “Everyone is in good spirits. It’s a bit frustrating, but we’re in a beautiful part of the world. “
Fraser told the newspaper he contracted COVID-19 on board the ship.
Cmdr. Brian Jensen of the Joint Arctic Command told Greenlandic television station KNR that the ship would likely head to Iceland, the nearest place with major ports.
“Now it is exciting to find out what the condition of the ship is,” Jensen was quoted as saying by KNR. “They are investigating whether the vessel is intact, seaworthy and ready to sail.”
The ship’s owner said several other vessels rushed to the scene “and offered their assistance, which, however, was not necessary.” It said it had also “arranged additional tugboat assistance in case this was needed, but this has now been cancelled”.
Dozens of cruise ships sail along Greenland’s coast each year so passengers can admire the picturesque mountain landscape, waterways filled with icebergs of different sizes, and glaciers jutting into the sea.
Danish TV channel DR said there would have been 400 cruises to Greenland in 2022 and 600 cruises in 2023.
The Danish maritime authority has asked Greenland police to investigate why the ship ran aground and whether any laws were violated, a police statement said, adding that no one has been charged or stopped. An officer went to the ship to carry out “the first investigative measures, which involve, among other things, questioning the crew and other relevant people on board”, it said.
The cruise liner began its current voyage on September 2 in Kirkenes, in the Norwegian Arctic, and was scheduled to return to Bergen, Norway, on September 22, according to SunStone Ships.
The main mission of the Joint Arctic Command is to ensure Danish sovereignty by policing the area around the Faroe Islands and Greenland, including the Arctic Ocean to the north. Greenland is a semi-independent territory, part of the Danish Kingdom, like the Faroe Islands.