The stricken Norwegian Crown is seen here on the left as tugboats try to manouevre it into deeper water. To the right is another cruise ship, the Grandeur of the Seas, which is berthed at nearby Dockyard. Photo by Leah Furbert
The stricken Norwegian Crown is seen here on the left as tugboats try to manouevre it into deeper water. To the right is another cruise ship, the Grandeur of the Seas, which is berthed at nearby Dockyard. Photo by Leah Furbert
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Regular cruise ship caller Norwegian Crown ran aground between Dockyard and Spanish Point this morning, but was pulled free by three tugboats this evening.

The ship is expected in Dockyard tonight, skipping Hamilton as a port of call.

The Norwegian Crown ran aground while the ship was navigating shallow water in the Dundonald Channel near Grassy Bay at 8:25am.

Passengers choosing to leave the ship were being ferried to Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital, as rain lashed the island. They appeared to be unruffled and taking it all in their stride when they spoke to our reporters this afternoon.

The ship is not taking on water and there are no reports of pollution resulting from the incident.

It’s standard practice for cruise ships to engage local pilots to manoeuvre the huge vessels through Bermuda’s treacherous coral reefs. There is no official word yet on how or why the ship ran aground.

Joe Simas, shipping manager for Meyer Shipping — the local agent for Norwegian Cruise Lines — said divers examined the ship and didn’t find any damage. Once the vessel reaches Dockyard, divers will do another search for signs of damage.

The 34,000 ton vessel, which sailed from Philadelphia and can carry 1,104 passengers and 500 crew, arrived in St. George’s, Bermuda yesterday. This morning it was on its way to Hamilton in heavy rain.

In a statement this morning, a Bermuda Police spokesman said: “Two tug boats (Faithful and Powerful) from the Department of Marine and Ports went to the Norwegian Crown’s assistance but after initial attempts to free the vessel were unsuccessful, it was decided to try again at high tide, around 6:30pm.”

“It is unclear at this time why the ship ran aground. There appears to be no major damage to the Norwegian Crown and at no time was there any concern for the safety of passengers on board.”

A statement issued by the Bermuda Government early this afternoon read: “The ship is being assessed by members of the Maritime Administration Department and is not experiencing any leakages.

“The Marine and Ports Department has dispatched its three tugs to assist the stranded vessel and coordinated efforts are under way by the ferry service to tender passengers ashore to Hamilton.”

Mr. Simas said the Fairmont Hamilton Princess has provided rooms for passengers to use.

He added that the ship has offloaded ballast to make it more buoyant so at high tide it will be able to get off the sand bar.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Mr. Simas added that once the Norwegian Crown is freed, it will head to Dockyard instead of making its scheduled stop in Hamilton.

Islanders looking to get a glimpse of the stranded ship clogged roads leading up to the nearest vantage points, prompting Government to urge the public — whether in cars and boats — to stay clear of the area.

Passengers described today’s events as a “mild inconvenience.” Sarah Collmer from Portland, Oregon, who is travelling with her husband and friends, said: “There was no drama. We just kind of slid into a sand bank. There was no panic and the staff kept us well informed.”

Shannon Rafine, 33, from Pennsylvania was in bed at around 7am, dozing, when the ship stopped.

She said: “I felt a little bump and then I heard the sound of the gears grinding for a long time. It was a while before they told us about the sandbar.

“They told us tug boats were trying to get us out. We weren’t too concerned, we were just curious about what was happening. A lot of people ran outside to have a look.”

Ms Rafine, who is travelling with friends and family, said that when third tug boat failed to dislodge the ship, staff announced they’d have to wait for high tide and that there was going to be a tender for passengers who wanted to be ferried into Hamilton.

She said: “That’s when people began to get a bit annoyed. A lot of us had excursions planned. There was a lot of milling around and people asking questions at the front desk.”

Not all the passengers left the ship. “It took so long to board the tender and then it started to rain so a lot of people stayed on the ship, others went on a round trip on the tender, coming into Hamilton and then going straight back to the ship.”

Ms Rafine said she’s taking what happened on the chin. “I’m a pretty laid back person, but I bet there’s a lot of passengers asking for free mimosas and bloody marys. It’s just life.”

The ship, which entered service in 1988, has being sold by Norwegian Cruise Lines to Fred Olsen Cruise Lines effective August 2006. NCL is expected to operate the vessel through the 2007 season.

Government has announced that regular ferry service will not be disrupted.

Last update: 5:57pm