Cruise ship forced to shut down one engine after grounding near Antarctic

The adventure cruise ship Clelia II sailing past a king penguin colony on Salisbury Plain, South Georgia Island. On a later voyage, Clelia II’s starboard propeller was damaged when the vessel ran aground in the Penola Strait off the Antarctic Peninsula. (Randy Green)

A 290-foot Antarctica cruise ship chartered by a U.S. company ran aground, damaging a propeller, in strong currents while preparing to disembark passengers.

The Malta-flagged Clelia II briefly grounded Dec. 26, 2009, in the Penola Strait, along the Antarctic Peninsula. The accident occurred at about 1630 local time while the vessel was positioned in its usual landing cove off Petermann Island.

“A stronger-than-anticipated southerly current pushed the ship toward the island,” said George Papagapitos, a principal of Travel Dynamics International (TDI), the New York company that charters the ship. “Effort by the officer-of-the-watch to correct the situation failed, and the starboard propeller struck some rocks.”

After the impact, the starboard engine was shut down and the house generators maintained electrical power, Papagapitos said.

“The port engine remained operational throughout the incident and was used to drive the Clelia II off the rocks to a position approximately one mile from shore, where the port engine was turned off for a full systems check,” he said.

The company said the captain asked for assistance from Corinthian II, a sister ship working for TDI that was about eight miles away. Corinthian II arrived in about an hour and stood by with the Clelia II‘s bow line as a precaution during full systems checks. By 1800, the crew started the port engine and confirmed it was operational. They then released the line to Corinthian II. Clelia II then proceeded north to Ushuaia, Argentina, under the port engine with Corinthian II as escort.

Clelia II arrived in Ushuaia on Dec. 30 for inspection and to disembark passengers. The starboard propeller had been damaged and needed replacement, so the ship sailed to a Punta Arenas shipyard. Papagapitos said that the Punta Arenas yard was too small to handle the 4,100-ton vessel, so the ship proceeded to Buenos Aires, arriving Feb. 24.

Clelia II was forced to cancel two charters as a result of the accident. Papagapitos expected the ship to be back in service March 22 for its Amazon cruise season.

Clelia II is operated by Helios Shipping Ltd., of Piraeus, Greece. The company didn’t reply to a request for comment.

It’s unclear whether any agency is investigating the incident. The Malta maritime flag authority didn’t respond to the question.

John Snyder

By Professional Mariner Staff