The Viking Orion cruise ship has been forced to stay offshore for more than five days after the ship, which was discovered to have “biofoul” growing on the hull, was reportedly denied permission to dock in Adelaide. Hundreds of passengers on board the 930-person capacity vessel are stuck approximately 12 nautical miles offshore from the port, outside Australian waters. Officials have instructed that the ship must be cleaned before re-entering the country’s ports.
According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry, the substance “biofoul” is a common accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae or small animals.
Despite containing naturally occurring organisms, the growth on the bottom of the ship is potentially harmful as it can mobilise the spread of invasive species, which the International Maritime Organisation have recognised as a “major threat to the world’s oceans and to the conservation of biodiversity”.
Australian officials explained that management of biofoul is a common practice for all arriving vessels and that the Viking Orion has undergone some cleaning measures to remove the substance which was first discovered in “small amounts” on Wednesday, December 28.
Officials reported that professional divers were engaged directly by the vessel line to clean the hull while at anchor outside Australian waters, though the ship has not yet been able to dock.
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The ship tracking website, Vessel Finder showed that the Viking Orion cruise ship has not docked since it left port in Wellington on Monday, December 26, despite being at sea for almost one week.
Passengers stranded on the ship have shared their experiences of the cruise on Twitter, with one user, Dr Megen Remmel (@ProfMLRemmel) stating that they had “missed four ports” and will be “stuck on the ship for almost nine full days”, in a tweet posted yesterday.
On the same day, another user named Kenn Heydrick @KHeydrick posted: “And news this morning, the captain has cancelled our next port in Melbourne. People are livid. Thank you @VikingCruises for a horrible journey. Another day sitting at sea where two boats are cleaning the ship hull. Negligence plus. #exasperation.”
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In a statement, the cruise operator Viking revealed that it was “working directly with guests on compensation for the impact to their voyage”.
In a letter on Friday, the ship’s captain apologised to customers, admitting that “the current cruise falls short of your expectations”.
They added that a member of Viking’s customer relations team would make an “adjusted offer of compensation” to guests in the coming days.
While passengers are understandably frustrated by the incident, they are not the only cruise-goers to experience a hiccup of this kind on their travels.