December 9, 2008
Antarctic cruise vessel refloated
The Antarctic cruise vessel MV Ushuaia has been successfully refloated. The ship grounded December 4 at position 64¼35.5'S 062 ¼25'W, at the entrance of Wilhelmina Bay near Cape Anna in the NW Antarctic Peninsula. On board were 82 passengers and 42 crew.
Two diesel tanks were punctured and/or damaged (tank Nr.4 port side, and Nr.5 center), and spilled MGO.
The passengers, who may have gotten a little more adventure than they signed on for, were transferred to Chilean Naval Vessel Achiles next day using Zodiac landing craft from the MV Ushuaia and from another Anarctic tourist vessel, the MV Antarctic Dream, which had been standing by. The crew of the Ushuaia remained on board.
On the afternoon December 7, the crew of the MV Ushuaia and the crew of the Chilean Naval Tug Lautaro started to transfer 120 cu.m of diesel from MV Ushuaia to storage tanks on the Lautaro and 100 cu.m of fresh water was discharged into the sea. This was done to improve the buoyancy of the MV Ushuaia. Transferring fuel off the vessel also reduced the potential for additional spillage should anything go wrong with the refloating.
Efforts to refloat the vessel began at high tide (approximately 0400UTC/0100LT). The vessel was fully free at 0545UTC/0245LT. Escorted by Lautaro, MV Ushuaia began making way under its own steam towards Paradise Bay. No oil has been seen leaking from the vessel while underway; however, this could be due to wind and wave action causing any fuel leaked to be rapidly dispersed. To minimize any further oil spill, fuel from the damaged tanks is being transferred into tanks that are not compromised. Once the MV Ushuaia is in the relatively sheltered waters of Paradise Bay, a further inspection of the hull will take place.
You can read a blow by blow account of the incident from the International Association of Arctic Tour Operators HERE
You can get a somewhat different perspective on the incident from the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition HERE.
The Ushuaiia is the former NOAA vessel Baldridge, which was retired from the agency in 1996 and which was originally delivered to NOAA as the Researcher from American Shipbuilding, Toledo, Ohio in 1978.