The luxury cruise ship MV Ocean Explorer with 206 people on board was successfully freed Thursday, three days after being stranded off Greenland, officials and the ship’s owner said.
The cruise ship’s owner, Copenhagen-based Sunstone Ships, and the Joint Arctic Command, which coordinated the operation, said the ship was freed by a fisheries research vessel at high tide.
“There were no injuries to anyone on board, no environmental pollution, and no hull violations,” Sunstone Ships said in a statement. It said the research vessel towing the cruise ship belonged to the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, a government agency.
It said the cruise ship and its passengers would now travel to a port where damage to the bottom of the ship could be assessed, and the passengers would be taken to a location from where they could be flown home. There was no immediate comment from Australia-based Aurora Expeditions, the tour company organizing the trip.
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 equal to the size of France and Spain combined, and about 80% is covered by ice sheet. The Alpefjord is approximately 240 kilometers (150 mi) from the nearest settlement, Ittokqortoormiit, which is approximately 1,400 kilometers (870 mi) from the country’s capital, Nuuk.
The Bahamas-flagged cruise ship has passengers from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. It has an inverted bow, shaped like the bow of a submarine, 77 cabins, 151 passenger beds and 99 beds for crew, and several restaurants.
Earlier on Thursday, Aurora Expeditions said three passengers had COVID-19.
“These passengers are currently in isolation. They are being cared for by our onboard doctors, medical team and crew and are doing well,” it said in a statement. Others on the MV Ocean Explorer are “safe and well.”
“Everyone is in good spirits. It’s a bit disappointing, but we’re in a beautiful part of the world,” Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Steven Fraser, an Australian retiree who was on board the ship.
Fraser told the newspaper he came down with COVID-19 on the plane.
Cmdr. Brian Jensen of the Joint Arctic Command told Greenland broadcaster KNR that the ship was likely headed to Iceland, the nearest place with major ports.
“Now it is exciting to find out what the condition of the ship is,” KNR quoted Jensen as saying. “They are in the process of checking to see if the ship is safe and sound, seaworthy and ready to sail.”
The ship’s master said that several other ships had arrived at the scene “and offered their assistance, however, it was not required.” It added that “additional tug assistance was also arranged if required, however, this has now been cancelled.”
Every year dozens of cruise ships sail off the coast of Greenland so that passengers can admire the picturesque mountainous landscapes, waterways filled with icebergs of different sizes and glaciers stretching into the ocean.
Danish broadcaster DR said there were 400 cruises to Greenland in 2022 and 600 cruises in 2023.
The Danish Maritime Authority has asked police in Greenland 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 arrested. Has been done “An officer is present on board the ship to take preliminary investigative steps, which will include, among other things, questioning the crew and other relevant persons present on board,” it said.
According to Sunstone Ships, the cruise liner began its current voyage on Sept. 2 in Kirkenes, Arctic Norway, and was scheduled to return to Bergen, Norway, on Sept. 22.
Joint Arctic Command’s primary mission is to ensure Danish sovereignty by monitoring the area around the Faroe Islands and Greenland, including the Arctic Ocean to the north. Greenland is a semi-independent territory that, like the Faroe Islands, is part of Danish territory.