LOCATION: Coronation Gulf, Canadian Arctic

Case number: 120-580

On August 27, 2010, the Bahamian-registered cruise ship, Clipper Adventurer, ran aground in the Coronation Gulf, Canadian Arctic. The vessel reported that it was not taking on water nor was there any sign of oil pollution. After several failed attempts to refloat the vessel, the captain ordered an evacuation of all passengers and non-essential crew on board. The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) icebreaker Amundsen was deployed from the Beaufort Sea on a rescue mission to evacuate and transport 128 passengers to Kugluktuk (formerly Coppermine).

The cruise ship reported sustaining considerable damage to its double bottom fuel tanks. The damage was below the waterline and, consequently, the fuel oil was forced to the top of the tank due to the ingress of sea water. As a result, there was no leakage of the oil. CCG also verified that at the time of grounding there was no sign of oil pollution in the vicinity of the grounded ship. However, several days following the grounding, a light sheen was visible but dissipated quickly.

The shipowner engaged its classification society, Lloyds Register, to develop a salvage plan. A Transport Canada Marine Safety Inspector provided oversight regarding the salvage plan. The CCG deployed the Sir Wilfrid Laurier as a support and logistical centre to monitor for oil pollution. Transport Canada, Environment Canada and CCG maintained a monitoring role throughout the salvage operation to ensure an appropriate response.

The Administrator instructed counsel to  investigate the  ongoing response  and  ascertain whether the Clipper Adventurer had a Bunker Convention insurance certificate. CCG advised that a request for a Letter of Undertaking, dated September 23, 2010, was transmitted to the vessel owner and also to the owner’s on-scene representative.

On September 14, the Clipper Adventurer was successfully refloated and towed by tug to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, for damage assessment and preliminary repairs in preparation for departure from the Arctic. On September 23, Transport Canada and the vessel’s classification society granted clearance for the vessel to transit from Cambridge Bay to Nuuk, Greenland. Under CCG icebreaker escort, the cruise ship was towed to Pond Inlet for rendezvous with an ocean tug for passage to Greenland.

The Clipper Adventurer departed Nuuk, Greenland, on October 28, 2010, and proceeded to the port of Gdansk, Poland, where permanent repairs were made from November 11, 2010, to December 31, 2010.

On October 17, 2011, the Administrator received a claim in the amount of $468,801.72 from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO/CCG) to cover the monitoring costs and expenses incurred by  CCG in respect of the incident pursuant to the Marine Liability Act (MLA). In  the meantime, the Administrator became aware of an action by the owners of the ship against the Crown alleging negligence on the part of the Crown (CCG and the Canadian Hydrographic Service) in failing to properly notify shipowners of the shoal on which the Clipper Adventurer had grounded. The amount claimed in the action is some $15 million in damages. About a year after the initial action was launched on behalf of the shipowner, the Crown launched its own action against the shipowner in the amount of $468,801.72 for its costs and expenses arising out of the incident. The Crown contended that the existence of the shoal had been properly publicized to mariners in a Notice to Shipping.

The Administrator was made a party to both actions, having been served with the proceedings as required by the MLA. The two actions have been joined and are now proceeding as one action under case management by the Federal Court. So far, the Administrator has declined to assess the Crown’s (DFO/CCG) claim pending the outcome of the litigation. He has, however, instructed counsel to monitor the proceedings. Extensive discoveries have been conducted. While the parties have been encouraged by the case management judge to consider settlement, so far the Crown has been reluctant to do so until certain discoveries have been completed. A date for the trial has not been set but it has been estimated that if a trial takes place it will not be before the second half of 2016.

A mediation was held by the Federal Court on February 10, 2016. The Administrator was represented by a Marine Consultant. No agreement was reached by the parties, however, the Prothonotary allowed the parties to continue their discussion and advised them to provide the Court with the status of their discussions by February 26, 2016. If the matter was not settled, then representations should be made as to the venue of the trial and list of witnesses. Accordingly, as of the end of the current fiscal year, the file remains open.