A first attempt on to refloat a SunStone-linked expedition cruise ship aground in the Alpefjord in Greenland failed on Wednesday.

The 8,200-gt Ocean Explorer (built 2021) ran aground in an ecologically sensitive region billed as the world’s largest and northernmost national park on Monday.

The remoteness of the location has meant that there are now maritime assets capable of assisting with salvage close at hand.

The Ocean Explorer, which has 206 passengers and crew on board, was operating a cruise on charter to Aurora Expeditions.

The Joint Arctic Command, part of Danish defence forces, has said that the ship is in a stable condition and does not present a pollution threat for now, and the have been no reports of injuries.

However, the Arctic Command said its closest vessel would not be able to reach the stranded ship until Friday.

The Greenland government’s 2,900-gt fisheries research vessel Tarajoq (built 2021) was the first vessel that was able to provide assistance to the Ocean Explorer, arriving on Wednesday.

The Tarajoq attempted to pull the Ocean Explorer back into deep water, but was unsuccessful, the Arctic Command said in its latest situation update.

“Getting the inspection vessel Knud Rasmussen to the accident site is still the Arctic Command’s first priority. The crew in Knud Rasmussen is doing their best to get there as soon as possible. Due to the weather in the area where Knud Rasmussen is, the ship has had to slow down a bit. Knud Rasmussen is expected to arrive during the evening of Friday 15 September,” the Arctic Command said.

While the situation is deemed stable for now, Arctic Command commander Captain Brian Jensen has warned that this could change.

“A cruise ship in trouble in the National Park is of course worrisome. There is a long way for immediate help, our units are far from that, and the weather can be very unfavourable. In this specific situation, however, we do not see acute danger to human life or the environment, which is reassuring. Of course, we are following the situation closely and take this incident very seriously,” Jensen said.

Aurora Expeditions said in a media statement that passengers and crew were not in danger, and ensuring a safe recovery was its “foremost commitment”.

Growing risk

The remote locations in which expedition cruise ships operate make it difficult for salvage assets to reach them expediently. Photo: SIRIUS/Arctic Command

The expedition cruise sector is one of the fastest-growing segments in the cruise industry, with dozens of new ships entering service over the past decades. Many more are still on order.

However, these voyages to the more remote, inaccessible parts of the world present a higher risk as they often sail through waters that are poorly charted, and help, when needed, is often far from hand.

The Ocean Explorer is one of a series of Infinity-class expeditions that Sunstone is building at China Merchants Heavy Industries in Jiangsu. The vessel is managed by Anglo-Eastern Cruise out of Miami. P&I coverage is provided by Steamship Mutual.