The expedition cruise ship Ocean Explorer has run aground in a remote fjord of eastern Greenland and may be stuck in position for several days until help can arrive.
A total of 206 passengers and crew are reported aboard, and authorities are in communication with the ship to offer assistance as quickly as possible.
Ocean Explorer Runs Aground
Ocean Explorer ran aground on Monday, September 11, 2023, while sailing in the Northeast Greenland National Park, famous for icebergs, unique wildlife, and being the world’s largest (375,000 square miles) and most northerly national park. The luxury expedition ship was sailing in the Alpefjord in the park’s southeast corner when it ran aground.
At the time of the incident, Joint Arctic Command – the branch of the Danish military responsible for patrolling Greenland – was notified that the ship was unable to free itself. No injuries were reported, and a flyover of the site on Tuesday, September 12, showed no immediate sign of environmental contamination or visible damage.
“A cruise ship in trouble in the National Park is of course worrying. It is far to the nearest help, our units are far away and the weather can be very unfavorable,” said Commander Brian Jensen, Chief of Operations in Arctic Command.
“In this specific situation, however, we do not see any acute danger to human life or to the environment, which is reassuring. We are of course following the situation closely and take this incident very seriously.”
Joint Arctic Command’s inspection vessel Knud Rasmussen is en route to Ocean Explorer. At the time the grounding report was made, Knud Rasmussen was 1,200 nautical miles (1,380 miles / 2,222 kilometers) from the stranded ship. Officials estimate that Knud Rasmussen will arrive to assist no earlier than Friday morning, September 15, if the weather remains favorable.
The Government of Greenland, the Danish Maritime Authority and the Accident Investigation Commission, as well as the Icelandic Coast Guard and nearby vessels, have all been informed of the incident in case additional assistance is necessary.
Several Possible Options
While there appears to be no immediate danger aboard Ocean Explorer, the ship is endeavoring to free itself with all means possible. Tuesday’s tidal flow, however, was not sufficient to help refloat the ship so it could get underway again.
“They can either try to get free on their own when it gets high tide, they can get help from a nearby cruise ship, they can get help from Knud Rasmussen, or they can get help from one of our partners,” explained Jensen. “Either way, the most important thing for us is that everyone gets to safety.”
Supplies and fuel may be of concern if the ship remains isolated for a lengthy period, but at the moment there are no reports of any potential shortages aboard. Ocean Explorer currently has 206 guests and crew aboard.
Satellite tracking data does show other cruise ships in the vicinity of Ocean Explorer, the closest of which is Silversea Expeditions’ newest ship, Silver Endeavor. The difficulty may be that Silver Endeavor is significantly larger than Ocean Explorer (540 feet long vs. 341 feet long) and may be unable to maneuver close to the stranded ship.
Several other expedition ships are also in nearby fjords, including vessels from Oceanwide Expeditions, Quark Expeditions, and Poseidon Expeditions, as well as another ship from Ocean Explorer’s line, Aurora Expeditions.
About Ocean Explorer
Ocean Explorer is a ice-strengthened vessel built in 2021, with 10 decks and the capacity to welcome as many as 162 guests if fully booked. The ship’s draft is just 17 feet, allowing it to operate safely in relatively shallow water. Fjord depths can vary greatly with tidal flow and local weather patterns, however. It is not known how deep Alpefjord is at this time.
The ship is owned by SunStone Maritime Group, and is currently operated by Aurora Expeditions, which features remote expedition cruising to the Arctic, Antarctica, Costa Rica, Scotland, Norway, the Falkland Islands, Patagonia, and other amazing destinations.