(8:45 a.m. EST) -- A Cruise & Maritime Voyages ship ran aground in a remote Norwegian fjord north of the Arctic Circle last night, suffering damage to its hull.
The 22,080-ton, 800-passenger Marco Polo was leaving Sortland, Norway, under the command of a local pilot when the ship struck a previously uncharted rock.
No injuries were reported in the incident, and Marco Polo immediately returned to the port for a damage assessment. Following inspection, preliminary repairs were made to the hull, and the ship was cleared to carry on with the remainder of its 14-night cruise.
Hugo Naess, Port Director for the Port of Sortland, expressed surprise over the grounding: "This has never happened before in the 15 years I have worked at the port, and about 2,200 different ships per year use the port. The Norwegian Coastal Administration are responsible for the correct charts, and they will be investigating the incident."
A similar grounding occurred last week, when the Hurtigruten ship Kong Harald struck a submerged rock and took on water in another remote fjord in northern Norway.
The 11,200-ton, 490-passenger Kong Harald was forced to wait for the tide to come in and lift the ship off the underwater rock at the entrance to Trollfjord before returning to port, cancelling the remainder of its cruise and heading to dry dock for repairs.
Also last week, another ship, Lindblad Expedition's National Geographic Sea Lion ran aground in Panama's Las Perlas island chain. The ship was able to sail the 70 nautical miles to port in Panama City under its own power. Lindblad Expeditions arranged to have the ship repaired in Panama City and cancelled the next scheduled cruise.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages has not commented on whether Marco Polo will require further repair, but the ship is due back in Tilbury on Thursday, March 15 and scheduled to sail again the same day on another Norwegian fjords cruise. The nearly 50-year-old ship was originally built as a Soviet passenger shipping vessel and has a hull designed to withstand contact with Arctic ice.
--by Jamey Bergman, Production Editor, U.K.