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Biofouling has prevented the Viking Orion from docking for the second time in two weeks. Passengers on the Viking Orion, a luxury cruise ship to which people flew in from all over the world for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday, were forced to spend a week at sea when ports in New Zealand and Australia flatly refused to accept the ship.

The Viking Orion, inaugurated in 2018 as the fifth cruise ship in the company’s ocean fleet, left Sydney on 22 December for a two-week Australia-New Zealand Christmas-New Year’s cruise. According to the published schedule, the cruise ship made two port calls on New Zealand’s North Island, at Tauranga and Napier, before the problem was discovered while the ship was in Wellington on 26 December. She’s been looking for a port of call ever since.

Officials in New Zealand denied cruise ship stops at Christchurch and Dunedin. The cruise ship was supposed to travel to Hobart, but Australian officials opted to prevent it from entering local waters. They continued to Adelaide, but before they arrived, the captain informed the passengers that the ship would be held offshore to rectify the problem.

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), a federal organisation managing fish resources, including water quality monitoring and the commercial fishing sector, acknowledged the issue. The fouling was misidentified as a “fungus” on the hull by mainstream media outlets.

“The vessel must undertake hull cleaning to eliminate the biofuel and prevent possibly dangerous marine creatures from being conveyed by the vessel,” AFMA stated in a statement.

Most seaports worldwide would allow marine growth, but New Zealand and Australia have national biofouling rules.

Australia’s guidelines are new, having gone into force in June 2022. The guidelines compel operators to “show the application of proactive management methods” for fouling, and authorities can inspect hulls and handle “unacceptable biosecurity risk” using Australia’s standards. The first 18 months will be spent by Australia’s Department of Agriculture engaging with ships and explaining the new requirements.

The Viking Orion stayed around 17 nautical miles off the coast of Adelaide, where professional divers were ultimately called in to clean the hull.

A Viking spokeswoman acknowledged that the ship had to skip numerous ports on the itinerary in order for the necessary cleaning to be completed. The ship left for Melbourne on 1 January and continued the original itinerary on 2 January.

When the cruise ended, passengers were disappointed since they had only visited four of the eight ports that were initially planned. Viking has offered an apology. Social media posts from cruisegoers state that they were promised a 50% refund.

For Viking, this voyage marked their return to Australia after more than 1000 days, during which time the company had to suspend operations due to COVID-19 and the country’s extended ban on foreign cruise ships.

Officials in New Zealand banned the cruise liner Coral Princess from visiting Milford Sound and Port Chalmers just before Christmas due to the presence of snails on the vessel’s hull.




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