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Luxury cruise ship stranded off Greenland is pulled free at high tide

The ship ran aground on Monday (Danish Air Force/Joint Arctic Command via AP)
The ship ran aground on Monday (Danish Air Force/Joint Arctic Command via AP) The ship ran aground on Monday (Danish Air Force/Joint Arctic Command via AP)

The luxury cruise ship MV Ocean Explorer has been successfully pulled free off Greenland, three days after running aground with 206 people on board, authorities and the ship’s owner said.

The ship was freed by a fisheries research vessel at high tide, said the cruise ship’s owner, Copenhagen-based SunStone Ships, and the Arctic Command, which had been co-ordinating the operation.

“There have not been any injuries to anybody onboard, no pollution of the environment and no breach of the hull,” SunStone Ships said in a statement.

The research vessel which pulled the cruise ship belongs to the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, a government agency, it said.

The Ocean Explorer
The Ocean Explorer The Ocean Explorer ran aground in north-western Greenland (SIRIUS/Joint Arctic Command via AP)

It said the cruise ship and its passengers will now travel to a port where the damage to the vessel’s bottom can be assessed, and the passengers will be taken to a location from where they can be flown home.

The cruise ship ran aground above the Arctic Circle on Monday in Alpefjord, which is in the Northeast Greenland National Park, the world’s northern-most national park.

The park is nearly the size of France and Spain combined, and approximately 80% is permanently covered by an ice sheet.

Alpefjord sits about 149 miles away from the closest settlement, Ittoqqortoormiit, which itself is 870 miles from the country’s capital, Nuuk.

The Bahamas-flagged cruise ship has passengers from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the UK and the US. It has an inverted bow, shaped like the one on a submarine, 77 cabins, 151 passenger beds and 99 beds for crew, and several restaurants.

Earlier on Thursday, Australia-based Aurora Expeditions which has chartered the ship, said that three passengers had Covid-19.

Cruise ship
Cruise ship The ship ran aground on Monday (Danish Air Force/Joint Arctic Command via AP)

“These passengers are currently in isolation. They are looked after by our onboard doctor, medical team and crew, and they are doing well,” Aurora Expeditions said in a statement. The others on the MV Ocean Explorer were “safe and healthy”, it added.

Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald quoted a retiree from Australia, Steven Fraser, who is on the ship, saying: “Everyone’s in good spirits. It’s a little bit frustrating, but we are in a beautiful part of the world.”

Mr Fraser told the newspaper that he himself had come down with Covid-19 on the ship.

Cmdr Brian Jensen, of the Joint Arctic Command, told Greenland broadcaster KNR that the ship is likely to go to Iceland, the closest place with large ports.

Denmark’s Danish Maritime Authority has asked police in Greenland to investigate why the ship ran aground and whether any laws had been violated, a police statement said, adding that no one has been charged or arrested.

An officer had been on board the ship to carry out “initial investigative steps which, among other things, involve questioning the crew and other relevant persons on board”, it added.

The cruise liner began its latest trip on September 2 in Kirkenes, in Arctic Norway, and was due to return to Bergen, Norway, on September 22, according to SunStone Ships.

The primary mission of the Joint Arctic Command is to ensure Danish sovereignty. Greenland is a semi-independent territory that is part of the Danish realm.