A cruise ship carrying more than 1,400 people had to be pushed away from shore by tugboats in the George Town harbor Monday after a strong current and winds combined to swing the ship’s stern around, leading to concern the 55,000-ton watercraft was coming too close to land.
Cayman Islands Port Authority officials were still looking into the incident by press time Monday, but said there appeared to be no damage to the harbor area or to the cruise liner. The Thomson Dream cruise ship was expected to leave Grand Cayman as scheduled at 5 p.m. Monday.
Bodden Shipping, the local agent for Thomson Dream cruises, said Monday afternoon that the ship’s captain had to call in two tugboats when he couldn’t get the craft righted using underwater thrusters.
“He was anchored, the wind speed increased on him, and the thruster wasn’t able to hold him,” said Eric Anderson of Bodden Shipping. “The tugs pushed him out to a safe distance.”
There were preliminary reports that the cruise ship had run aground in the harbor, but Mr. Anderson said that wasn’t the case. He said onlookers at the scene might have thought the ship had struck ground because sand around the harbor area was being stirred up by the thrusters.
“When they run their thrusters, because the thrusters put out so much horsepower, they blow sand,” he said. “The vessel never came anywhere close to shore.”
Cayman Islands Department of Environment chief enforcement officer Mark Orr, who was at the scene Monday afternoon, said he observed the two tugboats holding the huge cruise liner steady while remaining passengers were loaded on board. A number of cruise ship passengers were seen looking over the railing on the upper decks of the ship, trying to determine what was happening.
Mr. Orr said it appeared to him that the cruise ship, the only one in George Town on Monday, was anchored in the correct spot and that, in any case, there was no chance of using the alternate cruise anchoring location at Spotts on Cayman’s south coast because the surf was far too choppy.
“Where [the ship was] is all sand drop-off; it’s very unlikely they would have damaged it,” Mr. Orr said. “Even what wall is there, since it is an anchorage, has probably been destroyed over time.”
In August 2014, the 1,000-foot Carnival Magic cruise ship was guided by Bodden Shipping Agency pilot boats to drop its anchor outside of the designated anchorage zone, in front of Don Foster’s Dive Centre in George Town, severely damaging the coral reef.
No one was ever held officially responsible for the damage caused in that incident. The Department of Environment has said it is conducting an investigation.