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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 November 2007, 12:31 GMT
Cruise ship 'fit for conditions'
M/S Explorer listing
The Explorer sank after being holed in the Antarctic Ocean
A cruise ship which sank after hitting ice in the Antarctic Ocean was fit for sailing in such conditions, according to a shipping agent.

The 154 tourists and crew were rescued from the M/S Explorer and taken to a military base on Friday.

The vessel regularly cruised around the Scottish coast.

Norman McArthur, director of Stornoway Shipping Services, said the vessel was stronger than many modern boats and would have been examined regularly.

He said the Explorer had visited the north of Scotland several times in recent years, most recently in May.

The vessel sank on Friday night after being holed close to the South Shetland Islands.

These older ships are usually stronger than the ships which are produced nowadays
Norman McArthur
Stornoway Shipping Services

Mr McArthur said: "It is always sad when you see a ship in that condition, especially if you had a connection with her."

His company looked after the boat's on-shore needs when it visited the Stornoway area.

"Her passengers are not your normal cruise passengers," explained Mr McArthur.

"These people are much younger than the average, and they are fit and active.

"They were going into inaccessible places where the big cruise liners can't venture."

Following the news of the incident, the specialist Lloyds List maritime publication said the 2,400-tonne Explorer had been found to have five faults at its last inspection.

However, the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said that they had all been rectified by the time the ship set sail again.

A spokesman for the ship's operators, Gap Adventures, said it had been certified as seaworthy only last month.

Examined annually

Mr McArthur said he had no doubts that the vessel had been fit for the purpose of sailing in the Antarctic Ocean.

"This ship is an old ship, but these older ships are usually stronger than the ships which are produced nowadays," he added.

"She would be examined annually by experts to make sure she is fit for whatever work she has to do. It is an ongoing examination."

The rescued passengers and crew, including 23 Britons, spent the night at Chilean and Uruguayan military bases on King George Island in Antarctica.

They are due to be flown to Chile once the weather in the area improves, before heading home.

Graphic: MV Explorer
Built: 1969, Finland
Capacity: 100 passengers
Tonnage: 2,400
Cruising speed: 11 knots
Engines: 3,800 hp diesels
Crew: 54
First custom-built expedition ship
Known as the 'Little Red Ship' to aficionados
Became the first passenger vessel to navigate the North West passage in 1984
Involved in rescue of crew from Argentine cargo vessel off Anvers Island, Antarctica, in 1989

Chile to airlift rescued tourists
24 Nov 07 |  Americas

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