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Expedition Cruise Ship Grounds in Remote Area in Northeast Greenland

Ocean Explorer expedition cruise ship
Ocean Explorer is aground in a remote area in Northeast Greenland (Air Force/Arctic Command)

Published Sep 12, 2023 3:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

Ocean Explorer, one of the small expedition cruise ships designed to reach some of the most remote parts of the globe, grounded on Monday, September 11, in a remote part of the Arctic. The cruise ship is reported to be in no immediate danger while Arctic Command led by the Danish Navy is coordinating with the Icelandic Coastguard and other partners to develop a rescue plan for the ship.

The cruise ship was built in 2021 for SunStone Ships as a part of a class of expedition ships designed by Ulstein. The Ocean Explorer was the fourth in the series that is characterized by the use of the unique X-Bow design and outfitted for polar regions built to Polar Code Category B, with Polar Class 6 (Ice Class 1A on machinery). The ships also have zero-speed stabilizers and dynamic positioning.

The Arctic Command reports the Ocean Explorer is aground in the Alpefjord in the national park in Northeast Greenland. They are saying there are no immediate reports of damage to the ship or the environment but they are “taking the incident very seriously.”

Reports indicate that the area where the cruise ship went aground is a sparsely charted region. 

The command is reporting that its closest ship, the Knud Rasmussen, was 1,200 nautical miles from the Ocean Explorer’s reported position. The earliest the Rasmussen can reach the cruise ship is Friday with the command noting that is weather-dependent. 

“As soon as we realized that the Ocean Explorer couldn’t get free on its own, we sent a ship,” said the head of operations in the Arctic Command, Commander Captain Brian Jensen. He reports the command conducted an overflight on Tuesday to survey the cruise ship’s situation, and they have already asked another cruise ship that was in the same general area to remain in the area to assist “should the situation evolve.” 

The Danes are also consulting with the Icelandic Coastguard to determine if they have a vessel in the area that could reach the cruise ship.

Aurora Expeditions which recently took over the cruise ship after the bankruptcy of another operator reports the ship can accommodate up to 134 passengers. The Danes are reporting there are a total of 206 people aboard. The cruise ship is approximately 8,200 gross tons and 342 feet in length with a top speed of 15 knots. Its AIS signal shows it had been cruising in the region for the past few days.

“A cruise ship in trouble in the National Park is of course worrisome,” said Jensen. “It is a long way for immediate help, our units are far from that and the weather can be unfavorable.”

The Arctic Command said the cruise ship had not been able to free itself on the last high tide but there was still a chance they would be able to free itself.  Another ship in the area might also be able to provide assistance to the Ocean Explorer.