The 22,080-ton, 800-passenger Marco Polo was leaving a remote fjord north of the Arctic circle near Sortland, Norway, and was under the command of a local pilot when the ship struck a previously uncharted object beneath the waterline.
Marco Polo immediately returned to the port for a damage assessment, where preliminary repairs were made to the hull. The ship was subsequently cleared to carry on with the remainder of its 14-night cruise back to Tilbury in the U.K.
Damage to Marco Polo was not originally thought to be severe enough to warrant cancelling its next cruise, but the cancellation was made following a damage assessment at the Antwerp Ship Repair yard.
The line detailed compensation for passengers on the cancelled cruise in a statement, saying: “A full refund of the cruise package cost and a special £50.00 pp cash compensation payment will be made to all those affected who will also qualify for a 25% future cruise discount applicable to any UK/UK cruise in the CMV 2013 or 2014 programme.”
A similar grounding occurred a week prior to Marco Polo's incident, 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.
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.
It is not yet certain that Marco Polo's next cruise will take place, but it has been rescheduled to Sunday March 31, according to a CMV spokesperson. 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. CMV is awaiting an explanation from Norwegian authorities as to why an unexpected obstruction was present in the dredged channel leading from Sortland and what, exactly, the submerged object was. The Norwegian Coastal Administration are responsible for maintaining correct charts and are currently investigating the incident.
--by Jamey Bergman, Production Editor, U.K.