Stranded luxury cruise ship pulled free in Greenland

Danish authorities say the Ocean Explorer, which ran aground in Greenland, has been pulled free.

Danish authorities say the Ocean Explorer, which ran aground in Greenland, has been pulled free. Photo: AP

The luxury cruise ship MV Ocean Explorer has been “successfully” pulled free in Greenland, three days after running aground with 206 people on board, authorities and the ship’s owner say.

The ship, which is carrying 90 Australians, was freed by a fisheries research vessel at high tide on Thursday, its owner, Copenhagen-based SunStone Ships and Denmark’s Arctic Command said.

Both had been co-ordinating the operation.

It was done “based on a pull from the vessel (owned by the Greenland government) and vessel’s own power”.

“There have not been any injuries to anybody onboard, no pollution of the environment and no breach of the hull,” it said.

The name of the Greenland ship was Tarajoq and it belongs to the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, a government agency.

The ship’s owner added that “the vessel and its passengers will now be positioned to a port where the vessel’s bottom damages can be assessed, and the passengers will be taken to a port from which they can be flown back home”.

The cruise ship ran aground above the Arctic Circle on Monday in Alpefjord, which is in the Northeast Greenland National Park, the world’s northernmost national park.

The park is almost the size of France and Spain combined, and about 80 per cent is permanently covered by an ice sheet.

Alpefjord is about 240 kilometres from the closest settlement, Ittoqqortoormiit, which is almost 1.4 kilometres from Greenland’s capital, Nuuk.

The Bahamas-flagged vessel has passengers from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Britain and the US.

It has an inverted bow, shaped like the one on a submarine, 77 cabins, 151 passenger beds and 99 beds for crew, and several restaurants.

It comes as the ship’s operator said on Thursday at least three passengers onboard have contracted COVID-19.

“These passengers are currently in isolation,” the Australia-based Aurora Expeditions said in a statement.

“They are looked after by our onboard doctor, medical team and crew, and they are doing well.”

The others on the MV Ocean Explorer were “safe and healthy”, it said.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted a retiree from Australia, Steven Fraser, who is on the ship, saying “everyone’s in good spirits”.

“It’s a little bit frustrating, but we are in a beautiful part of the world,” he said, adding he had caught COVID-19 on the ship.

The cruise ship had made three failed attempts to float free on its own during high tide before it was pulled free on Thursday.

Denmark’s Danish Maritime Authority has asked police in Greenland to investigate why the ship ran aground and whether any laws had been violated, a police statement said, adding that no one has been charged or arrested.

An officer had been on board the ship to carry out “initial investigative steps, which, among other things, involve questioning the crew and other relevant persons on board”, it said.

The ship’s owner said in a separate statement the cruise liner began its latest trip on September 2 in Kirkenes, in Arctic Norway. It was due to return to Bergen, Norway, on September 22.


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