The Panama flagged cruise vessel M/V Ushuaia is expected to arrive early next week in South Georgia to pick up the stranded 114 passengers and crew of a similar small cruise M/V Plancius which after experiencing serious propulsion trouble took shelter at King Edward Point Research Station in Grytviken.
“The estimated time of arrival in South Georgia on 18 April, approx 12.00 hours local time and it is expected that the vessel can depart from South Georgia the same day with all passengers, including expedition and hotel staff. The vessel is scheduled to arrive in Montevideo, Uruguay on 24 April for disembarkation and connecting travel arrangements”, said Oceanwide Expeditions in a release.
In an earlier statement since the incident apparently occurred last 9 April the company said that “as a result of the propulsion failure 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 original ship ´s voyage was aimed at crossing the Atlantic (embarkation of passengers took place in Ushuaia on 29 March and disembarkation of passengers was planned at Praia/Cape Verde on 05 May.
“It is planned that all 73 passengers, some crew members (from 35 nautical and hotel), 6 expedition staff and 1 medical doctor will be repatriated onboard chartered passenger vessel m/v Ushuaia which will sail to Grytviken, from Mar del Plata, departing on Friday 13 April”, reported the company.
The Plancius will have to be towed with support of a tug boat from South Georgia if onboard repairs are not possible locally. IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators), Class (Lloyds register), flag state (The Netherlands), South Georgia Government and National Authority in the Netherlands have received status reports respectively.
All passengers, crew and expedition’s staff on the Plancius are safe and there is no threat to life or the environment, the company says.
”The spirit on board is, given the circumstances, good and passengers indulge in local walks and excursion program (on South Georgia island) organized by expedition staff,” the statement says.
Built in 1976 as an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy, the ship was rebuilt in 2009 as a passenger vessel after being acquired by Oceanwide Expeditions.
M/V Ushuaia was originally built for the United States agency NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) and has been refurbished to accommodate a maximum of 84 passengers in 41 twin cabins and suites. Ushuaia is an ice-strengthened polar vessel with a full complement of inflatable landing craft.