May 14, 2007
Empress of the North runs aground
Majestic America Line's 299 foot stern wheel cruise ship Empress of the North ran aground 49 miles west of Juneau near Hanus Reef in Lynn Canal, Alaska this morning at about 2 a.m. local Alaska time with 281 people on board.
The Empress of the North contacted the Coast Guard via VHF radio on Channel 16 reporting they were aground with 281 passengers on board.
Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak launched a C-130 crew and a pre-deployed HH-60 helicopter crew from Cordova, Alaska to the scene.
The Coast Guard successfully facilitated the evacuation of all 248 passengers, who were transfered to the Alaska Marine Highway ferry vessel Columbia for transit back to Juneau.
Subsequently, Majestic America Line announced that all of the passengers and crew of Empress of the North had been safely transferred to Juneau.
The passengers and some crew members arrived in Juneau aboard the Alaska state ferry, Columbia, at approximately noon local time where they were met by company representatives.
Essential members of the crew stayed aboard Empress of the North, which arrived under its own power in Juneau later. It is now undergoing a thorough assessment.
No injuries were reported during the incident.
Empress of the North was on the second day of a seven day cruise of Alaska's Inside Passage roundtrip from Juneau that departed on Saturday, May 12.
David Giersdorf, President of Majestic America Line said the company is "working closely with all regulatory authorities to undertake a full investigation and assess the condition of the vessel."
According to an AP report, today's grounding "is the fourth time the ship has hit something or run aground since it was built in 2002 at the Nichols Brothers shipyard on Whidbey Island."
The AP story notes that In October 2003, it hit a navigation lock at the Ice Harbor dam on the Snake River, the following month it ran aground on the Oregon side of the Columbia River and in March this year it grounded on a sand bar in the Columbia near Washougal.