MoD: Luxury Cruise Ship Was In Danger of Grounding, New Photos and Video Show ‘Complex’ Rescue

an RAF Sea King helicopter winching passengers to safety from the cruise ship La Boreal. La Boreal was approx. 3 miles north of Cape Dolphin en route to South Georgia
An RAF Sea King helicopter winching passengers to safety from the cruise ship Le Boreal. Le Boreal was approx. 3 miles north of Cape Dolphin en route to South Georgia. Photo: Ministry of Defence

The UK Ministry of Defence has provided new details on the rescue of hundreds of passengers and crew who were forced to abandon a luxury cruise ship in the Southern Atlantic following a major engine room fire.

As gCaptain reported yesterday, the fire broke out Wednesday morning at about 2 a.m. onboard the French cruise ship Le Boreal, with 347 passengers and crew, as it sailed near the Falkland Islands. A statement from the owner of the vessel, Ponant, said the passengers were evacuated as a “precaution” and were later embarked on another Ponant vessel, L’Austral, which happened to be nearby.

But details released by the MoD on Thursday described the incident as a major search and rescue operation carried out in difficult conditions. The ship was also in danger of grounding, at one point coming within 3 miles of land even. 

“The ship reported suffering a major engine room fire, which caused the loss of all power and left the ship drifting,” the MoD said in its statement. “A north-westerly gale placed the ship in real danger of grounding on Cape Dolphin, East Falkland.”

With the master giving the order to abandon ship, the MoD deployed British forces based in the Falkland Islands to assist.

“Two Royal Air Force Sea King Search and Rescue helicopters were scrambled, along with two other support helicopters, a C130 Hercules and a Voyager aircraft for command and control. The Royal Navy patrol vessel HMS Clyde was despatched to the scene, as were Dutch tugs which support British Forces in the Falkland Islands,” the MoD said.

Photo: Ministry of Defence
Photo: Ministry of Defence

With the HMS Clyde providing assistance to 200 evacuees onboard two lifeboats, RAF helicopters winched another 79 people from the deck of the cruise ship and two liferafts, the MoD. Those 79 people were eventually brought to the British Forces Base at Mount Pleasant where they received care, clothing, food and medical attention.

Part of the rescue was caught on tape:

“All passengers and crew from Le Boreal have been accounted for and are being looked after on the Falkland Islands,” the MoD said.”The vessel itself is now in a stable condition and two Dutch Tugs, under contract to British Forces, are now assisting to bring the vessel alongside in the Falkland Islands for a detailed assessment of her condition.”

Commenting on the rescue, Commander British Forces South Atlantic Islands, Cdre Darren Bone, said:

“We responded with everything we had yesterday to assist in what was an extremely complex and hazardous rescue operation in difficult conditions but I am delighted that we can report all of the passengers and crew of the vessel are safe and well and the vessel itself in a stable condition. This was a huge team effort involving close liaison with the Falkland Islands Government and I am enormously impressed with the reaction by all the British forces involved, it was an exemplary performance all round.”