Planning Process Under Way for Refloating Grounded River Cruise Ship

American Jazz aground outside the navigation channel, Lake Barkley, July 10 (USCG Heartland)

Published Jul 11, 2021 4:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

Over the weekend, a U.S. Coast Guard-led unified command continued to work on a way to safely refloat the grounded river cruise boat American Jazz from a shoal in Lake Barkley, a reservoir on the Cumberland River.

The command is investigating different options for getting the vessel refloated with minimal damage to the hull or the environment, and as of Saturday, there was no definitive plan to announce. A safety zone is in place for 1.5 miles on either side of the scene, and in a statement Sunday, federal on scene coordinator Cmdr. Jennifer Andrew - the commanding officer for Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Paducah - issued a reminder to boaters that they must adhere to restrictions on approaching the vessel. 

Divers examine the grounded vessel's hull, July 11 (USCG)

Image courtesy USCG

“American Cruise Lines is actively engaged in the re-float plan for the American Jazz and is working together with the Coast Guard as well as its own team of marine engineers and naval architects," said Alexa Paolella, public relations manager with American Cruise Lines. "American Cruise Lines has also contracted with marine recovery experts Donjon-SMIT to re-float the riverboat. All mechanical systems aboard are fully operational and there is no damage to the vessel. There have been no safety concerns, no injuries and no pollution or environmental issues. The cause of the incident remains under investigation and presently, American Jazz continues to rest on the soft muddy lake bottom.”

All 120 passengers and six nonessential crewmembers were transferred off the ship by tender on Friday, and 48 crewmembers remained on board. In an update Sunday, American Cruise Lines told local media that an additional cohort of crewmembers would disembark shortly, and that there was no danger to the remaining crew on board.

COVID forces cancellation of one Alaska sailing

Separately, American Cruise Lines was forced to cancel a scheduled cruise trip out of Juneau, Alaska after three people aboard the vessel American Constellation tested positive for COVID-19. Two of the individuals were fully-vaccinated passengers, and the third was an unvaccinated crewmember. American Cruise Lines does not require vaccination as a condition of employment, the line told media, though most of its crewmembers are vaccinated.

The cases were detected when one of the affected passengers began showing symptoms. All three infected individuals are now in quarantine in Petersburg, and personnel who came into close contact with them - along with all other unvaccinated crewmembers - are now quarantined on board. As of Sunday, the vessel was moored at Auke Bay, a small cruise terminal outside of Juneau. 

The incident is American Cruise Lines' first onboard COVID outbreak since its cruise restart in March, the company said in a statement.