A luxury cruise ship carrying 206 passengers and crew was “successfully” freed Thursday amid fears of a potential COVID-19 outbreak on board.
The owner of the Ocean Explorer, Copenhagen-based SunStone Ships, said a fishing vessel owned by the Greenland government pulled the cruise ship out of the mud and silt that had immobilized it.
“On Thursday early morning the OCEAN EXPLORER was successfully pulled of the grounding in the East Greenland Fjord. This was done based on a pull from the vessel TARAJOQ and the vessel’s own power,” SunStone said in a news release. “There have not been any injuries to any person onboard, no pollution of the environment and no breach of the hull.”
The company added, “The vessel and its passengers will now be positioned to a port where the vessel’s bottom damages can be assessed, and the passengers will be taken to a port from which they can be flown back home.”
Earlier, three people aboard the Ocean Explorer tested positive for COVID-19 and were placed in isolation, the ship’s operator, Australia-based Aurora Expeditions, said Wednesday, according to The Guardian. They are being attended by an on-board doctor and medical staff and are “doing well,” the company said.
The Danish military’s Joint Arctic Command (JAC) said the Ocean Explorer ran aground on Monday in Alpefjord in Northeast Greenland National Park, about 870 miles northeast of Greenland’s capital Nuuk. The 341-foot ship was immobilized in mud and silt, and high tides were not enough to lift the Ocean Explorer free.
No one was injured, and there were no reports of anyone in danger, the JAC said. However, the nearest Danish Navy vessels were days away, and bad weather delayed an inspection ship from arriving until Friday evening at the earliest.
Armed forces personnel stationed in Greenland inspected the Ocean Explorer and spoke with those on board, concluding that they were in good condition.
Aurora Expeditions previously said that passengers and crew aboard the Ocean Explorer were “safe and well.”
“We are actively engaged in efforts to free the MV Ocean Explorer, from its grounding. Our foremost commitment is to ensure the vessel’s recovery without compromising safety,” the company said in a statement. “We have also secured the support of other vessels in the vicinity should their assistance become necessary.”
Gina Hill, an Australian passenger aboard the Ocean Explorer, told The Guardian that she and her husband felt a shudder and heard a scraping noise when the ship ran aground Monday.
Hill said those aboard were in good spirits and had been entertained by lectures and stories of expeditions from the crew.
“No one seems to be afraid, and they’re giving us updates quite regularly,” Hill said.
She added that some passengers chose to wear masks in public spaces after the confirmed COVID-19 cases, but others did not.
Reuters contributed to this report.