2 Jan 2023

Viking Orion: Cruise passengers stranded after fungus halts ship

6:18 pm on 2 January 2023
The cruise liner Viking Orion in 2020, moored at Station Pier in Melbourne.

The cruise liner Viking Orion in 2020, moored at Station Pier in Melbourne. Photo: AFP/ William West

Hundreds of passengers have been stranded on a cruise ship floating off Australia's coast after a fungus was found growing on its hull and it was denied entry to Christchurch.

The Viking Orion was reportedly denied permission to dock in Adelaide after authorities discovered a "marine growth" on the ship.

Australia's fisheries department said the fungus - which it called biofoul - was "potentially harmful".

Officials said the ship's hull must be cleared before entering the country.

Biofoul is an accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae, or small animal and can allow the importation of invasive species into non-native habitats.

The fisheries department said the management of fungus was a "common practice for all arriving international vessels" and said that the ship had to be cleaned to avoid "harmful marine organisms being transported" into Australian waters.

"Professional divers were engaged directly by the vessel line/agent to clean the hull while at anchor outside Australian waters," it said.

The ship was also reportedly denied permission to dock at Christchurch, Dunedin and Hobart. One passenger wrote on Twitter more than 800 guests remained onboard, many of whom were "upset and angry" by the company's "negligence".

The 14-deck, 930-person ship - which was built in 2018 - had reportedly dropped anchor about 27km off Australia's coast while the cleaning is done.

In a statement, operator Viking admitted a "limited amount of standard marine growth" was being cleared from the ship's hull and said that this had caused the vessel to "miss several stops on this itinerary".

But the operator said it expected to sail toward Melbourne shortly, where it would dock today.

"Viking is working directly with guests on compensation for the impact to their voyage," it said.

In a letter on Friday, the ship's captain apologised that "the current cruise falls short of your expectations" and said a member of Viking's customer relations team would make an "adjusted offer of compensation" to guests in the coming days.

A total of 6121 international vessels arrived in New Zealand from 1 January 2020 to September 2022. Of these 6 percent (377) were issued a notice of direction (NOD) to address biofouling issues, MPI said


Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs