November 23, 2007

Titanic 2007

The Canadian Cruise ship Explorer has been stove by a small iceberg off Antarctica! In this photo she is on her beam ends as I type this may already have sunk. More here.

The crew and passengers were rescued by the Norwegian cruise ship Nordnorge which transported them to King George Island. They will be transferred to the Chilean research station there and be flown to Punta Arenas as soon as weather permits.

The National Geographic Society cruise ship Endeavor also raced to the scene and an ABC (US) reporter aboard filed this report with video.

The MV Explorer was an interesting  ship with a unique history. Constructed in 1969 the "little red ship" was an ice strengthened cruise ship ahead of her time in that she was intended for what would later be called "eco-tourism".

 The vessel was the first civilian ship to negotiate the northwest passage unescorted. She had sailed farther north and farther south than any other cruise ship and had been the first cruise ship to sail the full length of the Amazon and the first cruise ship to dock in Iquitos Peru. The vessel had rescued the crew of an Argentinian vessel that had struck a rock off Anvers Island and had been used to conduct relief and medical operations in the Amazon.  She was bought by the Canadian ecotourism company G.A.P. Adventures in 2004.

Some question is being raised over "deficiencies" found by both Lloyds inspectors in the UK and Port State Control inspectors in Chile.

  Deficiencies recorded were: two on fire safety measures; one on life saving appliances; one for ship's certificates and documents, and one deficiency recorded for structural safety. She was seen at the time in Greenock's JWD dock for repair

At least one of the deficiencies in Chile was listed as "not required" which may seem odd at first blush. However, it is likely that it was something that was only required by the 1974 SOLAS treaty.

Being built in 1969, the ship was built under the Survival of Life At Sea treaty  SOLAS 1960 convention which is much less stringent than the currently enforced treaty (SOLAS 1974). For one thing the 1960 treaty allows open lifeboats which is why some of the Explorers passengers were exposed to the elements before rescue. Vessels built after May 1, 1980 fall under the newer more stringent requirements. The ship had reportedly passed inspection before leaving port and was reported to be in good shape.

The fact that the ship was crippled by a hole "the size of a fist" is weird. There may have been additional cracking that made the flooding uncontrollable. If so it may have had to do with the age of the vessel and undiscovered preexisting cracks.

Keep in mind that while I do a bit of Port State Control, I'm not a marine casualty investigator. So this is just speculation.

The rescue effort was remarkable for its international nature, with coordination from the US and Argentinian Coast Guards, participation by Chilean  Army and Air Force units with the actual rescue by US and Norwegian merchant ships.

Bravo Zulu to the Captain and crew of MV Nordnorge for pulling off a flawless rescue effort in difficult conditions!

We've come a long way since 1912.

On a lighter note;

Antarctica: MV Explorer Listing

Badly After Hitting UFO

Is actually a completely accurate and  serious article...which makes it all the more priceless.   Saved here in case they realize that the acronym for unidentified floating object just doesn't work in layspeak.

UPDATE:  Stephen Den Beste has found another completely accurate yet distracting headline associated with this calamity.

Bountiful Woman Rescued From

 Cruise ship Sinking After Hitting


 Yay! They saved a bountiful woman!
(Now we can make up for some of those environmentalists! )

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