The Danish navy has decided to station two of its heavy vessels in the shipping lanes of western and eastern Greenland for fear of a disaster because cruise vessels sail too close to icebergs and glaciers in the territory.
“We are responsible for rescue in Arctic waters from Cape Farewell in southern Greenland to the North Pole. It’s a vast area and we are obviously not able to be everywhere,” says Rear Admiral Henrik Kudsk, Commanding Officer at the Danish Grønnedal base in the Arsuk Fjord in southern Greenland.
“Experience from Antarctica shows that you need a cruise ship to rescue a cruise ship – no other vessels have the capacity. So we are advising cruise companies to cooperate and sail in pairs in Greenland waters,” Kudsk says.
When not if
Commander Jan Bøgsted is one of those who would have to coordinate a rescue if a cruise ship with 4,200 passengers needed rescue.
“In fact, it is not a question of if, but when it happens. It’s only a question of time,” Bøgsted says.
“Cruises are sold as adventures – getting close enough to ice packs so that you can almost touch them. The closer you get, the more adventurous it is and the better the stories to tell back home. That’s how the cruise companies see it. But for those of us who deal with rescue, we want them to keep as far away from icebergs and glaciers as possible. It is extremely dangerous to get too close,” Bøgsted says.
Thirty-six cruise ships visited Greenland in 2009. On one day in August there were 14 cruise ships in eastern and western Greenland, two of which had 4,200 people on board.
Edited by Julian Isherwood