A luxury cruise ship carrying 206 passengers has run aground in remote north-eastern Greenland, and the closest vessel that can help with the rescue is not expected to arrive until Friday.
The Ocean Explorer became stuck at about noon on Monday, Greenland time, in the Alpefjord, roughly 1400 kilometres north-east of Greenland’s capital, Nuuk, according to Brian Jensen of the Danish military’s Joint Arctic Command in Nuuk.
The ship’s captain initially waited for high tide at midnight to try to float clear, Jensen said by phone. But the mud – a mix of sediment, sand and silt left by a nearby glacier – is exerting suction on the vessel and may be proving too difficult to break. The ship waited for the next high tide which on Tuesday, but that attempt was also unsuccessful, he said.
“Our main priority is the safety of the 206 persons on board,” Jensen said. “It’s very isolated. We’re in the national park, northeastern Greenland, there’s no population. Luckily, it’s calm and we have time on our side as there’s no imminent threat of a storm.”
A military flight over the Ocean Explorer confirmed that its hull appears intact and no oil has escaped. No injuries have been reported and it’s believed the ship has plenty of supplies.
A Danish naval vessel already at sea off the coast of southwest Greenland has been diverted and should reach the area by Friday morning, said Jensen. At this point, freeing the ship will likely require a third-party vessel commissioned by Aurora Expeditions, the operator, which is based in Sydney. Most of the passengers are Australian, Jensen said.
Greenland, like many Arctic countries, is becoming increasingly concerned about the logistics of mounting expensive rescue operations in remote areas.
The number of cruise ships in Greenland has risen 50 per cent in the past year to 600, Jensen said. Last year, the Joint Arctic Command did one medical evacuation and so far this year it has done five, he said.
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