Small cruise ship grounds on Alaskan island

The 143-foot cruise ship Spirit of Columbia grounded on the east side of Evans Island in Latouche Passage, near Whittier, Alaska, at about 0953 on Aug. 19.
There were 51 passengers and 21 crew on board the 514-gross-ton vessel at the time and no injuries were reported. The vessel did not list, the hull was not breached and no pollution was reported.
Visibility at the time of the grounding was four to six miles and seas were running at 2 to 4 feet, according to Coast Guard Sector Alaska.
The ship was traveling at clutch ahead when it struck soft ground. Spirit of Columbia is designed to do beach landings, which is allowed in Canada, with a bow that opens, according to Lt. Tim Callister, senior investigating officer for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sector Alaska.
The vessel was refloated at 1330, Callister said. Low tide was at 1140.
Spirit of Columbia is owned by West Travel Inc. and operated by Cruise West, of Seattle, which runs 10 small cruise ships in North America and the Pacific. “Our ships take you where large ships can”t go,” states Cruise West’s Web site for its Alaska cruises.
Spirit of Columbia came close to shore to view wildlife, according to Callister. “It’s a small cruise boat. With their size, they are able to get more intimate with wildlife,” he said. “When you operate in a near-shore environment, you have to be on the ball.”
Callister said of Latouche Passage, “I wouldn’t call it tricky. It all depends on local area knowledge and the tools available.”
The 225-foot Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore was dispatched from Cordova and escorted Spirit of Columbia back to Whittier. In addition, two HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters and a C-130 aircraft were sent to the scene from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak.
Callister said the investigation is continuing so he could not say why Spirit of Columbia grounded. He also could not comment on whether the vessel’s navigation equipment was working properly.
By Professional Mariner Staff