Federal Court raps cruise ship owner for 2010 Nunavut grounding
Court finds Clipper Adventurer’s officers put nearly 200 lives at risk
The owners of the Arctic cruise ship, the Clipper Adventurer, which famously grounded near Kugluktuk in August 2010, with 128 passengers and 69 crew members on board, has lost a $13.5 million lawsuit they filed against the Government of Canada.
They had claimed compensation from the Government of Canada to cover “the cost of temporary and permanent repairs, payment to the salvers, business interruption, and related matters,” and alleged that federal employees failed to inform them of the shoal they had sailed into during a cruise sold by Adventure Canada.
But on Jan. 27, Justice Sean Harrington of the Federal Court of Canada ruled against the Bahamas-based Clipper Adventurer Owner Ltd.—and, in a separate legal action, included in the same judgment, but launched by the Government of Canada against the owners, ordered the company to pay the federal government $445,361.64 plus interest dating to Sept. 17, 2010.
He rejected the owners’ claim that the Canadian Coast Guard and the Canadian Hydrographic Service knew of the presence of the shoal, and had a duty to warn, but failed to do so.
“The shortcoming lies with the ship. The Coast Guard station MCTS [Marine Communications and Traffic Services] was under no duty to take the initiative to warn the Clipper Adventurer of the presence of the shoal,” Harrington said in his judgment. “It did not know which route would be taken. It may have been different if the Clipper Adventurer had asked for but was given misinformation.”
So, instead of receiving the millions they asked for, the ship’s owners, the ship and “all others interested in the Clipper Adventurer” must pay the Government of Canada.
If the owners don’t pay up, the Clipper Adventurer “shall be sold,” the 41-page judgment says.
The 2012 Transportation Safety Board report on Clipper Adventurer grounding had already revealed that broken equipment as well as questionable decisions, which “may place a vessel, passengers and crew at risk,” contributed to the Aug. 27, 2010 grounding.
Harrington’s judgment also cited other examples of mismanagement, such as inattention to a 2007 Notice to Shipping about the shoal and similar navigation warnings—and the lack of updates to important navigation charts.
“In my opinion, the sole cause of the casualty was the failure on the part of those interested in the Clipper Adventurer to maintain Canadian Hydrographic Chart 7777 up-to-date,” Harrington said.
Navigation officer David Mora, who was serving on his first posting as an officer and his first voyage to the Arctic, testified that although he had heard something about Notices to Shipping [NOTSHIPs] from another officer, he had no idea what these were.
“Captain Grankvist and Mr. Mora did not know they had a problem because they had not properly prepared for the voyage. They were under a legal obligation to update Chart 7777 to take into account NOTSHIPs and failed to do so. They should have made it their business to make sure that all NOTSHIPs were on hand, and consulted. They did not,” Harrington said.
“As it was, this nonchalant attitude put the lives of close to 200 souls at risk,” Harrison said.
Before it grounded, Clipper Adventurer was also going at a good speed, 13.9 knots, in a place where only one other similar vessel had gone during the past 18 years.
“The Clipper Adventurer was the author of her own misfortune by recklessly proceeding at excessive speed in largely unknown waters,” the court judgment states.
And so, that evening, the cruise ship hit a shoal 55 nautical miles east of Kugluktuk. Passengers were then evacuated to Kugluktuk on the Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen, although crew members initially stayed on board the Clipper Adventurer while tugs tried to get the vessel off the shoal.
In early September, a dive team and a salvage company arrived on site, with divers discovering that the hull had sustained extensive damage and that 13 double–bottom tanks and compartments, including four full diesel oil tanks were holed, as opposed to the seven originally reported by the crew.
Tugs struggled for two weeks to get the ship off the rock, and finally the crew was evacuated.
On Sept. 14, 2010, as weather conditions again deteriorated, another attempt was made to move the Clipper Adventurer using tugs, and the ship broke free from the bottom and accelerated rapidly off the shoal.
The Clipper Adventurer was towed back to Cambridge Bay. It finally headed to Greenland and then Poland, where permanent repairs, including replacement of the broken forward-looking sonar, were completed.
The Clipper Adventurer was originally built in 1975 to serve as a passenger vessel operating out of Murmansk in the former Soviet Union and then Russia between 1975 and 1997, under the Alla Tarasova.
It’s a sister ship of the ill-fated Lyuba Orlova, which had been charted by Cruise North Expeditions a subsidiary of Nunavik’s Makivik Corp.
The Lyuba Orlova was seized in 2010 over disputes with creditors. In 2013, the ghost ship broke free from a tug and drifted across the North Atlantic Ocean, where it’s believed to have sunk somewhere off the coast of Ireland in February or March 2013.
The Clipper Adventurer now operates under the name Sea Adventurer, and last year was used for cruises sold by AdventureSmith Explorations of Norwalk, Connecticut. Also, Quark Expeditions of Seattle, Washington is offering Antarctic cruise on the vessel for late 2107.
Quark says on its website that the former Clipper Adventurer will soon be renamed “Ocean Adventurer” and is due for a major retrofit.