21 Feb 2009

Antarctic cruise ship refloated: all safe

9:33 am on 21 February 2009

The Argentine cruise ship that ran aground near the San Martin research station in Antarctica has been refloated.

The Ocean Nova stranded on rocks with 68 people on board on Monday.

Quark Expeditions, which was running the guided tour to Antarctica, says the boat was refloated on Thursday night with the help of high tide.

The passengers, including three New Zealanders, had already been transferred to another boat and taken back to Argentina.

Stricter controls on ships urged

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says the incident highlights the risk tourist ships in the Southern Ocean pose not only to human life but also to a pristine and fragile environment.

He says it's only a matter of time before a disaster occurs if the international community doesn't work to implement stricter controls soon.

Mr McCully was announcing a conference of Antarctic Treaty nations in New Zealand later this year: it will focus on how to prevent a major maritime accident, and how to manage a rapidly expanding but inadequately regulated industry.