Thomson Spirit Run Aground

A number of Portuguese newspapers are reporting that the Thomson Spirit, with over a thousand passengers aboard, became grounded while attempting to dock in the port of of Portimão, Portugal earlier this week. Portimão is located in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. 

On the day in question, the Thomson Cruises ship sailed down the Arade River to dock at around 8:00 A.M. but spent approximately one hour and-a-half stuck in the silt. The cruise ship managed to dock at 9:20 A.M.  

Problems concerning silting in the Arade River are reportedly known to the local port administration. The riverbed has not been dredged for almost a decade.

Crew Center was the first website to report on the incident. 

Photo credit: Portimaocruises Blogspot

Crystal Serenity Cruises Into Uncharted Waters

Crystal SerenityToday, the largest cruise ship ever to try and navigate the NorthWest Passage is sailing from Seward, Alaska in an effort to reach New York via Canada and Greenland.

Much has been written about the environmental damage which will be caused by the Crystal Serenity over the nearly 1,000 mile journey.  The Telegraph published an article titled The world's most dangerous cruise? 1,070-capacity ship takes on the Northwest Passage. Much has also been written about the environmental hazards which the Crystal cruise ship will face.  

The Telegraph writes that the NorthWest Passage is "not a defined route but a labyrinth of possible waterways, just 10 per cent of which has been charted. Unknown rocks, shallows and currents will present constant challenges. So will sea ice."

The Telegraph also reminds us that "things have gone wrong in the past. In 2010 it took a Canadian icebreaker 40 hours to evacuate just 120 passengers from the 330 ft Clipper Adventurer when it ran aground on an underwater cliff." 

As a history major, I tend to look back in time to determine the likelihood of things going wrong in the future.  I wrote about the Clipper Adventurer hitting what was described as an "uncharted rock" back in 2010. One commentator remarked that "the problem is cruise ships want to go off the safe shipping lanes where there is more dramatic topography or stunning wildlife." 

Of course, cruise ships have hit rocks and run aground even in the best of weather and sea conditions. Putting the Costa Concordia showboating disaster aside, in 2007 the Sea Diamond cruise ship struck a reef and eventually sank in good weather off the coast of Santorini. The Windstar Cruises' Star Pride hit underwater rocks near Isla de Coiba, Panama, and NCL's Norwegian Dawn hit a reef near the port shortly after leaving Bermuda. The last two incidents occurred in good weather last year.   

The most infamous incident occurred back in 2007 when the Explorer (photo right) was sailing in the Explorericy waters of the Antarctic Ocean and hit an unidentified submerged object, reported to be ice, which caused a gash in the vessel's hull. The Explorer had intended to trace the route of 20th century explorer Ernest Shackleton through the Drake Passage. The Explorer sank and all 91 passengers, 9 guides and 54 crew were evacuated and drifted for 5 hours in lifeboats before they were rescued. The sinking fortunately happened in good weather, permitting a safe rescue.  

In 2010, the 100 passenger cruise ship Clelia II averted disaster after it scrapped underwater rocks and began to take on water in the Antarctica Peninsula.  

In 2013, I wrote about a series of cruise ships striking underwater rocks in the Fjords of Norway.

Just yesterday, I wrote about the recent sinking of an excursion vessel carrying 23 passengers from the small, luxury cruise ship, L’Austral (operated by Compagnie du Ponant), near Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland which apparently struck an underwater rock or iceberg. The incident received little media attention, notwithstanding the environmental damage and the risk posed to the cruise ship passengers who faced a certain death if they had not been saved. 

The Telegraph says that the Crystal Serenity will be accompanied by the RRS Ernest Shackleton, an icebreaker, and two helicopters "to help scan for ice," so it appears that the cruise line has taken some extra precautions.  

The Arctic cruise, reportedly at a cost of over $20,000 to $120,000 per passenger, plus the cost of the excursions, is a clear money-making deal for Crystal, assuming all goes well. Let's hope that the Ernest Shackleton guides the Serenity safely through the ice and avoids the fate of the Explorer, which is sitting somewhere on the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean.  

Photo: Top - Crystal Cruises via the Telegraph; bottom - AP 

Horizon Runs Aground in Norway

The Horizon cruise ship ran aground today in Stavanger, Norway.  The Stavanager Aftonblad newspaper reports that the cruise ship became stuck after sailing into the sandbanks near the Norwegian port. Tugs were sent to the scene and and pushed the ship safely into the dock.

The Horizon is owned by Croisieres de France, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean. 

Photo Credit: Anders Heskja Sandvik via Stavanger Aftenblad.

Horizon

Mismanagement and Lies Plague Cruise Ship Grounding

The U.K.'s Marine Accident Investigation Branch has concluded that a cruise ship which hit rocks and lost power last year was due to poor planning and "poor bridge team management and navigational practices." The cruise ship sustained major damage to its hull which disabled one or its two propellers. Yet, what makes this grounding particularly egregious is that the captain ordered the cruise director to tell the passengers after the dangerous grounding that "all is well" and he proceeded on with the cruise while neither the master, the cruise line nor its shoreside managers reported the incident to the U.K. Coast Guard. 

The controversy arises out of an incident In May of last year, the Bahamas-registered cruise ship, the the MV Hamburg, owned by Conti Group, bareboat chartered to Hamburg Cruises SA, and managed at the time by by V.Ships, grounded on charted rocks in the Sound of Mull, Scotland on its voyage to Tobermory.  

According to the MAIB report (Crown copyright, 2016), the Bahamas-registered passenger ship had MAIB Report Hamburg Grounding Crown Copyright, 2016previously left Bremerhaven, Germany bound for London, England. The ship was scheduled to complete a cruise around England, Ireland and Scotland, including Tobermory, Scotland.  The U.K. had issued a gale warning for the Irish Sea prompting the master of the Hamburg to increase the speed of the ship so to reach the protected bay of Tobermory before the weather deteriorated.   

The Tobermory harbor association informed the ship that it could not safely enter Tobermory Bay because other smaller cruise ships were moored in the bay.  However, the master decided to proceed toward Tobermory with a new plan to drift in the Sound of Mull, outside of the bay, until the other ships left the bay. The weather conditions included a moderate swell and the wind was force 6 to 7 gusting up to 40 knots.

Having been unable to enter Tobermory Bay on arrival, the bridge team did not re-evaluate or amend the passage plan.

After one of the cruise ships left the bay and, later, the second cruise ship pulled its anchor and proceeded to depart the bay, the Hamburg proceeded toward Tobermory.  Meanwhile, other vessels, the motor yacht Nahlin and a bulk carrier, Yeoman Bridge, approached the area. 

The officer of the watch and an inexperienced cadet on the Hamburg plotted the vessel's position on a paper chart, but were doing so 'infrequently and irregularly." At one point, the cadet observed that his plotted position of the ship was some distance away from the officer's position but closer to the shoals. However, he did not consult the officer and assumed his plotting was incorrect. This led him to remove his plotting from the paper chart using an eraser. 

The master was preoccupied with the marine traffic as the Hamburg approached the shoals and permitted the ship to hit the rocks. The ship "shook violently" as it struck the rocks but it did not become fast on the rocky shoals.  The port propeller was damaged with large portions sheared off and malformed; the port propeller shaft was distorted; the port rudder was displaced; and, the hull was heavily indented from the stern to mid-ship. The full extend of the damages was unknown to the master at this time. 

The ship temporarily lost power, due to the activation of a switchboard trip, and navigational systems and radar were temporarily shut down. Officers on the ship informed the mater that the main port engine had shut down and there was a problem with the port propeller and that it could not be used.  

The master decided proceeded on to Tobermory on one engine. The master ordered the cruise director to make an announcement to the passengers "telling them that all was well and that the cruise would continue." The MAIB report also noted that "despite the loud noise and vibration resulting from the grounding, the bridge team did not initiate the post-grounding checklist, (and) no musters were held . . "  

Upon entering Tobermory Bay, the master observed that there were many smaller boats which were moored in the bay. He decided to avoid the congestion and drop anchor near the entrance to the bay rather than at the position designated by the Tobermory bay association. A marine manager from the bay association arrived near the Hamburg in a powered rigid inflatable once the Hamburg had stopped and tried to communicate with the ship via VHF radio but was initially unsuccessful. She later communicated with the bridge team, advising them that there was more shelter further inside the bay but the officer of the watch said that the Hamburg would not proceed further into the bay. The ship began to drag the anchor and came perilously close to grounding again. The master then elected to back the ship out of the harbor and pull its anchor without further contact with the harbor association.

After leaving Tobermory Bay, the master attempted to notify the designated person ashore at the ship's managers, V.Ships, to notify him of the grounding. The master spoke to V.Ships office, but he did not reach either the designated person ashore or the back-up contact, identified in the report as the V.Ships fleet manager, according to the MAIB report. The master then telephoned the technical consultant at Hamburg Cruise SA.  "It was agreed that the vessel would proceed to Belfast, Ireland for an underwater inspection." The Hamburg Shipping consultant then informed V.Ships of the grounding.

Incredibly, neither the master, Hamburg Shipping nor V.Ships reported the grounding to the U.K. Coast Guard, or the Tobermory harbor association or the MAIB. The report then continues:

" . . . the Dublin Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) was alerted to the accident when the concerned mother of a crew member telephoned them. She had been having a telephone conversation with the crew member about the accident when mobile phone contact was suddenly lost. Fearing the worst, she contacted the coastguard. Dublin MRCC, which was aware of Hamburg’s new destination port, warned Belfast MRCC that the passenger vessel might have been involved in a grounding. Belfast MRCC then contacted Hamburg and, in conversation with the master, established that the vessel had grounded earlier in the day. The master also confirmed that Hamburg was proceeding using one of its two propeller shafts since one had been rendered unserviceable by the grounding, but stated that he was content with the situation and was not in need of assistance."

While the Hamburg proceeded to Belfast, weather conditions worsened overnight. With with only one working propeller shaft, Hamburg struggled to make progress to Belfast. The master chose to "heave-to" in the Irish Sea and wait for the gale force winds to abate before continuing on passage for Belfast. ("Heave-to" in the report means "when a vessel is headed into the wind and swell with its engines MAIB Report Hamburg Groundingrunning but her position does not change.") The MAIB found the decision to sail for Belfast “without first developing a plan with the vessel’s senior officers, technical managers and the relevant authorities ashore” was “inappropriate and incurred additional unnecessary risks.”

The full extent of the damage to the Hamburg was revealed only after divers inspected the hull once the ship arrived in Dublin and was later taken to dry dock. It took approximately three months to complete the repairs to the ship.  

In June last year, the ship's captain, Joao Manuel Fernandes Simoes, was prosecuted for failing to prepare a passage plan under SOLAS and failing to report the accident contrary to the Merchant Shipping Regulations. He admitted failing to properly plan the Hamburg's passage into the bay, and to report the incident to authorities. A Belfast magistrate fined him a total of £800 plus costs. No penalties were levied against the cruise line or the ship's managers. 

The MAIB comprehensively addressed errors by the bridge team and the failure to modify the ship's passage plan and other factors which led to the grounding. A number of newspapers and news organizations like the BBC covered this aspect of the MAIB report. In my view, accidents like this can happen even with the most experienced bridge team and mariners at the helm. But, to me, the media has not addressed the most egregious and indefensible aspect of the incident, namely the misleading and deceitful information ordered by the master to be told to the passengers, the decision to proceed to cruise to Belfast without fully understanding the compromised and unseaworthy condition of the ship, and the refusal of the master, cruise line officials and ship managers to notify the U.KS. Coast Guard, the Tobermory harbor association or the U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch.

The master should have obviously sounded a crew alert and mustered the passengers as required by the Safety Management System checklist while the officers checked the extent of the damage and determine whether it was necessary to abandon ship or disembark the passengers in Tobermory. The master's decision to sail on to Belfast in a damaged ship in rough weather seems particularly cavalier and dangerous to the passengers and crew members.    

Credit: Photos and report U.K. Marine Accident Investigation Branch (Crown copyright, 2016).

Windstar Cruise Ship Runs Aground

Seabourn Pride a/k/a Star PrideWindstar Cruises' Star Pride (photo left in Europe when it was operated by Seabourn) hit rocks near Isla de Coiba, Panama yesterday morning. 

Professor Ross Klein's website says that according to a passenger aboard the Star Breeze:

"We have just picked up 109 passenger and crew from another Windstar Cruise Liner in (what I think is) the south end of Costa Rica. The other Windstar ship hit rocks and took on water near the port where people got off. We left our port in an emergency to assist and it took 13 hours to get to them. According to people on that Windstar ship no one was injured which makes us all happy. We are going to be back tracking to get them to the closest airport. The ship we all saw is clearly damaged at it is listing."

News sources says that guests were refunded 100 percent of their voyage fare. Cruise Critic says that the cruise line offered '100 percent of cruise fare paid for future cruise credit." 

The cruise ship will be towed to the port of Balboa in Panama for repairs to the hull. Windstar is also reportedly canceling the December 26th Star Pride voyage. 

The cruise ship was renamed the Star Pride after Seabourn Cruises stopped operating the vessel last year. 

Photo Credit: Seabourn Pride by Churchill188 licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia.

December 26 2015 Update: It seems that this occurred on a UNESCO World Heritage site. According Star Pride Groundingto the Facebook Sea Shepard Panama page (Photo Credit for photo right):

"A Cruise Ship Passing Through UNESCO World Heritage Site Coiba National Park, hit some slightly submerged rocks while attempting to navigate through a shallow channel.

The ship is undergoing repairs In this delicate ecosystem so it can continue on its way. Meanwhile other Cruise Ships navigate around it as they load and unload their 100's of passengers for waterskiing and other activities.

We hope that while repairs are happening on the Ship that there is no furthur negative impact to the environment.

At this stage it is unknown how much damage has-been done to the Reef and Marine life at the site of impact."

Norwegian Dawn Hits Reef Near Bermuda

A friend just notified me that the Port Bermuda cam operated by PTZtv shows that the NCL Norwegian Dawn has just hit a reef near the port. 

The cruise ship reportedly launched lifeboats, although there is no indication that anyone was injured. The weather looks nice.  The boats may have been checking the damage to the cruise ship and reef.  

Passengers are tweeting that the cruise ship hit the reef hard and churned up the reef.

The ship was heading back to Boston. 

Some news outlets are reporting that the Dawn lost power shortly after leaving Bermuda. 

You can watch the webcam here.

Have any photos or comments? Please post below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: J. Zsiros via CBS Boston

NCL Dawn Bermuda

Will the Bahamas Celebration Sail Again?

Bahamas CelebrationThe Bahamas Celebration ran aground ten days ago and sustained a breach in the hull which permitted water to enter the lower deck.  

I am receiving many messages from the crew that they were required to work in dangerous conditions after the ship ran aground and returned to port in Freeport. Now the majority of the crew has been sent home and there are doubts that the cruise ship will sail again anytime soon. 

The company appears to be paying only the basic salary of the crew for two months. Waiters and cabin attendants who earn a basic salary of only $50 a month (and rely on tips to earn a living) will receive only $100 in the next two months.

The Bahamas Celebration Facebook page was updated yesterday with a cover photo saying "Caribbean Vacation Option Beginning November 13" with a toll free number.

This seems very misleading as the cruise ship can't sail and the crew was just sent home.

If you have information about the extend of the damage to the vessel or the status of the crew, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Top - WPTV.

November 11 2014 Update: A number of cruise passengers and agents have contacted us today. Many passengers feel that they were treated improperly by the company. Agents, who have not worked since the first of November, feel that the company is keeping them in the dark.  They have not heard anything from the company, management, or staffing agency. One person told me: "The company is wrong in the way they are treating everyone guest, crew,and agents. Leaving people who go to work everyday with no communication, answers or even a reason, we have families! We are required to give reasons and communicate if something happens in our life but we do not get the same respect."  

Bahamas Celebration