Headline news around the world today as a cruise ship carrying close to 1000 people was stranded off the coast of Latvia, according to The Baltic Times.

The passengers from the Bahamas-registered passenger ship Mona Lisa, which ran aground off Latvia`s northwest coast in the IrbeStrait on Sunday, were transported by special train from Ventspils to Riga on Monday evening, Genadijs Pavlovs, the head of Ventspils brigade of Latvian State Fire and Rescue Service, told BNS.

The decision to transport passengers to Riga came as the ship destination was Riga, which is why all 650 tourists would not stay in Ventspils, and were be carried by train especially provided by the Latvian Transport Ministry and Latvijas Dzelzcels railway company as currently, there are no passenger trains from Ventspils to Riga.

Meanwhile 237 ship crew will most likely stay in Ventspils overnight. Yet, there is possibility that the crew will be transported to Riga by buses, which will be decided later, Pavlovs said, adding that several crew members will remain on the ship.

 Latvian navy coastguard service head Hermanis Cernovs told BNS that a specialized company from Sweden will be involved in rescuing the ship at the request of the Lord Nelson Seereisen shipping company managing the stranded ship. The Swedish company possesses all equipment necessary for performing rescue operations.

On Monday afternoon, after several unsuccessful attempts to tow the stranded ship, the evacuation of the passengers from the ship began.

There were 747 passengers aboard the ship. The majority of them were elderly people from Germany.

The decision on evacuation of passengers and part of the crew was taken by the ship captain following the warning of the increasing speed of the wind. Leaving passengers aboard in such conditions would be unwise. The people were evacuated by Latvian navy ships Virsaitis, Varonis, Kristaps, Gaisma and Latvian Border Guard ships Tira and Randa, while Swedish coastguard ship KBV-201 is on stand by.

After the evacuation of the people the attempts to tow the ship off the shelf continued. The rescue works of the ship were under way the whole night, yet, they were unsuccessful.

At about midnight the fourth tow-boat arrived to the site of the accident and the attempts to move the huge passenger ship continued until 5:00 a.m. Mona Lisa is several hundreds of tons heavy ship which went several meters deep into the shelf. The draught of the liner is nine meters, while the water is only five meters deep in the place of the accident. 

Bahamas-registered passenger ship Mona Lisa with 972 on board ran aground off Latvian northwest coast in the IrbeStrait. The accident happened 18 kilometers off Latvia`s coast when the ship was looking for the route, shipping conditions had been favorable -- slow wind and low waves, so weather was not a factor.  The captain of the ship is from Greece and his assistants are from Ukraine. 


Mona Lisa, built in mid-1960s, belongs to German shipping company Lord Nelson Seereisen. It is 173 meters long and has eight passenger decks. It can accommodate 782 passengers and 417 crew members.

The Baltic Times, BNS