The owners of the cruise ship Clipper Adventurer will have to pay nearly $500,000 in environmental costs to the Canadian government after a Federal Court judge ruled they were responsible for the vessel’s grounding on a rock shelf off Nunavut.
Justice Sean Harrington also dismissed a $13.5-million claim from the vessel’s Bahamas-based owners, Adventurer Owner, which alleged that the Canadian government should have given them more information about the shoal, reports CBC News.
The incident occurred in August 2010. The Clipper Adventurer, carrying 128 passengers and 69 crew, struck an uncharted rock shelf near Kugluktuk, Nunavut. There was minor pollution and no injuries caused by the incident.
In his decision, Harrington said the Canadian Coast Guard properly warned the Clipper Adventurer's crew of the rock shelf through a notice to shipping, which was not on board the ship.
The shoal on which the Clipper Adventurer grounded had been previously discovered in 2007. An alternative route was available to the vessel, but it was not chosen by the bridge team due to the extra distance of 200 miles. Rather the bridge team chose to navigate a route on an inadequately surveyed single line of soundings made in a 1965 survey, using less reliable technology than that available today.
The Clipper Adventurer was proceeding at full sea speed of 13.9 knots and was not operating with a functional forward looking sonar. The crew could have deployed one of the vessel’s inflatables, equipped with portable echo–sounders, to precede the vessel but did not. As a consequence, the vessel struck the shoal at full sea speed, damaging the hull and the propulsion machinery.
“Had Officer Mora … taken serious note of the publications with which he was required to be familiar, he would have known perfectly well that there were written NOTSHIPs [notices to shipping], and that if he could not get them by visiting the Canadian Coast Guard website, all he had to do was call MCTS Iqaluit,” the decision reads.
“As it was, this nonchalant attitude put the lives of close to 200 souls at risk.”
The shipowner argued that the crew could not have asked about the notice, because they did not know there were hazards in the area. However, Harrington said: “Captain Grankvist and Mr Mora did not know they had a problem, because they had not properly prepared for the voyage.
“They were under a legal obligation to update Chart 7777 to take into account NOTSHIPs and failed to do so. They should have made it their business to make sure that all NOTSHIPs were on hand and consulted. They did not.”
The Transport Safety Board of Canada report on the incident is available here.