Russian research ship detained in Denmark

Russian state research ship / passenger ship Akademik Ioffe (IMO 8507731) was detained in the Danish port of Skagen on November 1st at the request of Canadian cruise operator One Ocean Expeditions, which is pursuing litigation in Canada.

The Akademik Ioffe had been refuelling at the time. Reuters reported the arrest, citing court documents.

The Akademik Ioffe was alleged in the court documents to have avoided a previous attempt to detain it in Portugal.

One Ocean Expeditions has filed suit in Canada against the owner of the Akademik Ioffe, Russia’s Shirshov Institute, seeking damages over an incident on August 24th 2018 when the ship, then leased to the tour operator for Arctic cruises, ran aground during a trip in Canada’s north (IMN, August 28th 2018).

In 2019, according to One Ocean Expeditions, the ship suddenly stopped sailing with passengers, which the Canadians considered to be a breach of contract.

One Ocean Expeditions is seeking damages worth $6.14m, the documents showed. It claims that the ship’s crew had not “paid attention to nautical charts”.

At the time of its detention in Skagen there were 61 people, including crew members and research staff, aboard the vessel.

The ship captain told local authorities he was aware of the grounding incident, but had been under the impression that the matter had been resolved, according to the court documents.

The Russian Embassy in Copenhagen said it had received “copies of the court decisions on the basis of which the arrest was made”. It said that Russian embassy officials were in touch with the Danish Foreign Ministry on the matter.

The grounding led to a Canadian Transport Safety Board investigation, which identified a number of safety deficiencies aboard the 117.1 metre vessel (IMN June 14th 2021).

It was sailing through a remote area which none of the crew had ever visited before, and which was not surveyed to modern hydrographic standards. The ship deviated from its original voyage plan because of concerns about the weather impacting a planned passenger excursion. In preparing a new voyage plan to accommodate this, the master relied on a Canadian chart, but was unaware it contained only partial bathymetric data. He therefore took no additional precautions to mitigate the risks of navigating in this area.

The low-water depth aural alarms on both echo sounders had been regarded as a nuisance, so had been turned off.

No-one was injured and all 163 people on board were rescued, but the vessel sustained major damage to its hull.

1989-built, Russia-flagged, 6,450 gt Akademik Ioffe is owned and managed by the Shirshov Institute of Moscow, Russia.