THE CRUISE ship Viking Orion was allowed to berth at Melbourne on Monday (2 January) after being denied permission to berth at four ports in Australia and New Zealand over more than a week because of biofouling concerns.

The vessel left Sydney for a two-week cruise, according to media reports. Viking Orion called in at Tauranga and Napier in New Zealand before making its way to Wellington.

It was there, on 26 December, that the biofouling issue was identified. The ship was denied permission to berth at Christchurch, Dunedin and Hobart and it headed towards Adelaide. There, 12 nautical miles out to sea, the vessel’s hull was cleaned.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry confirmed to DCN the department had been advised of the change of itinerary for Viking Orion from Hobart to Adelaide.

“On 28 December, the DAFF National Maritime Centre (NMC) were notified of small amounts of biofoul on the vessel hull and engaged the vessel agent and Marine Biosecurity Unit to comply with standard biofoul management procedures (biofouling is a common accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae, or small animals on vessel hulls),” the DAFF spokesperson said.

“To protect the marine ecosystems within Australian waters the vessel is required to undergo hull cleaning to remove the biofoul and prevent potentially harmful marine organisms being transported by the vessel.”

The DAFF spokesperson said professional divers were engaged directly by the vessel line/agent to clean the hull while at anchor outside Australian waters.

“The management of Biofoul is a common practice for all arriving international vessels,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Viking Cruises confirmed to DCN the vessel arrived in Melbourne on 2 January and was admitted to port.

“The ship has now returned to her planned itinerary and is currently sailing toward Sydney, where she is expected to arrive on January 4 (local time),” the spokesperson said.

“Following the exterior cleaning of a limited amount of standard marine growth from the ship’s hull – a routine cleaning procedure for nautical vessels – the ship unfortunately missed several ports on this itinerary.”

The spokesperson said the company is “working directly with guests on compensation for the impact to their voyage”.

The DAFF spokesperson said the department has implemented new, mandatory biofouling requirements for international vessels on 15 June last year, and the management of biofouling is common practice for all arriving international vessels.

“The department recommends that vessel operators implement an effective biofouling management plan; or clean all biofouling within 30 days prior to arriving in Australian territory; or implement an alternative biofouling management method pre-approved by the department,” The spokesperson said.