Passenger ship that ran aground in Nunavut has been refloated, company says

A passenger ship that ran aground Friday morning in the Far North has been refloated, and all its passengers were safe and being cared for on another ship.

All ship passengers are safe and being cared for on sister ship, company spokesperson says

The Akademik Ioffe, seen here in a promotional photo from One Ocean Expeditions, was refloated Saturday after it ran aground near Kugaaruk, Nunavut, on Friday morning. (oneoceanexpeditions.com)

A passenger ship that ran aground Friday morning in the Far North has been refloated.

Andrea Beaubien, a spokesperson for the One Ocean Expeditions tour company, said Saturday morning that the Akademik Ioffe had "come afloat" and that all its passengers were safe and being cared for on another ship.

There were 162 people on board the Akademik Ioffe, including Canadians and international passengers, according to Catherine Lawton, One Ocean Expeditions's general manager. Some are passengers on an expedition, and others are scientists working with the Northwest Passage Project, she said.

The ship was in Kugaaruk, Nunavut, on Thursday and then headed northbound for its excursion when it became grounded in the western Gulf of Boothia around 1:30 p.m. ET, said Lawton.

"There was a slight impact felt, yet everything went on as per normal," she said, adding there were no safety concerns. "Our regular passenger programming on the ship continued. The chef kept cooking. The passengers kept going to educational presentations."

Kugaaruk is located on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. (Google)

Beaubien had no immediate information about whether the ship sustained any damage when it became grounded.

On Friday, a spokesperson with the Canadian Armed Forces said the ship was taking on water, but was not in danger.

Lawton explained Saturday the water was contained to empty tanks on the ship.

"The hull damage was limited and contained to closed, empty tanks, which are secure from the rest of the ship," Lawton said. "Those are actively being managed."

She could not provide more information about what grounded the vessel. 

Passengers safely aboard sister ship

A pair of Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers had headed to the area to offer assistance, and One Ocean Expeditions said in a release Friday evening that the Akademik Ioffe's sister ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, was providing support and assistance.

Everyone who was on board the Akademik Ioffe moved onto the sister ship on Saturday morning, while Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Trenton monitored the evacuation, said David Lavalee, spokesperson with the Canadian Armed Forces.

Around 11:30 a.m. ET, the Canadian Coast Guard tweeted that crews had finished getting passengers off the Akademik Ioffe, and there were no injuries. 

Lavallee said Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Trenton would be keeping an eye on the ship until it made it safely to Kugaaruk. The sister ship is carrying 270 passengers, "which is more people than its safety equipment can accommodate," he said.

Two Hercules planes were sent to help the ship on Friday. One had since returned to its base, and the other was in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, on Saturday morning in case extra support was needed, Lavallee said.

Two Cormorant helicopters and air crews were also helping on Friday night. Lavallee said Saturday morning that the crews were in Iqaluit, and one helicopter was heading to the ship in case it needed to help with the evacuation. 

One Ocean Expeditions said there had been no report of any environmental concerns.

The tour company, which has a mailing address in Squamish, B.C., said the captain had reported the incident to the relevant federal and territorial agencies.

Man's trip delayed because of grounded ship

Mark Schad, of Vancouver, was supposed to board the Akademik Sergey Vavilov from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, earlier this week for a cruise to Greenland. Instead, he was stuck in Yellowknife on Saturday. 

That's because his ship has been helping the passengers and crew from the Akademik Ioffe, he said, putting a wrench in his trip as a result. 

"We don't even know what's exactly happening," he said, adding the delay is disappointing.

However, he said One Ocean Expeditions has been giving him updates on the situation and keeping him fed and entertained in the meantime.

As for his plans now?

"Got the car, gonna go get my wife and we're going to Hidden Lake," Schad said. "We're going to go and have a picnic ... and we're just going to go and enjoy."

With files from Kirsten Fenn and Alyssa Mosher