Antarctic “adventure cruise” ship loses propulsion

Written by Nick Blenkey

MV PlanciusHere we go again. Another of those Antarctic “adventure” cruises has gotten a tad more adventurous than passengers may have expected. This time round, the vessel in question is the MV Plancius, operated by Oceanwide Expeditions of The Netherlands.

An “Atlantic Odyssey” that started with embarkation of passengers in Ushuia, Argentina, March 29, has come to an end with the ship sheltered in safe position resting alongside the jetty of King Edward Point Research Station in Grytviken/Cumberland East Bay/South Georgia (54°17’S, 36°30′ W).

Passengers, crew and expedition staff aboard the Plancius are reported  safe.

“There is no threat to life or the environment. The spirit on board is – given the circumstances – good and passengers indulge in local walks and excursion program organized by expedition staff,” says Oceanwide.

The original ship’s voyage was aimed at crossing the Atlantic with disembarkation of passengers planned at Praia/Cape Verdes on May 5. Things apparently started to go wrong on April 9 when the vessek experienced what Oceanwide Expeditions describes as “an incapacitation caused by mechanical dysfunction of the main propulsion system causing a reduced propulsion power.”

As a result of the propulsion failure, says Oceanwide, the ship has only very limited sailing capabilities ( maximum 4-5 knots in calm conditions), which means the vessel will not be able maintain course in rough seas of the open ocean. The weather forecast is unpredictable due to approaching winter period and Oceanwide Expeditions decided to take precautions and cancel the crossing of the Atlantic. It is planned that all 73 passengers, some crew members (from 35 nautical and hotel), six expedition staff and one medical doctor will be repatriated onboard chartered passenger vessel m/v Ushuaia which was to sail to Grytviken, South Geogia from Mar del Plata, Argentina today, arriving in South Georgia on April 18, approx 12.00 hours local time. It is expected that the vessel will depart from South Georgia the same day with all passengers, including expedition and hotel staff. The m/v Ushuaia is scheduled to arrive in Montevideo, Uruguay on April 24 for disembarkation and connecting travel arrangements .

While the MV Plancius looks from the Equasis data base to be a perfectly acceptable vessel in which to go adventuring in the Antarctic, cautious souls might have some concerns about the rescue ship. According to Equasis, the Ushuaia flies the flag of the Comoros (which is on the Paris MOU black list), is classed with a non-IACS classification society, and 14.92 percent of its inspections in the last 36 months have led to detentions.

A  tug boat for Plancius will arrive in South Georgia in the afternoon of April 17 and it is set to depart from South Georgia the next day after all passengers have been transferred to m/v Ushuaia.

April 13, 2012

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