Coast Guard Works to Refloat Sinking Cruise Ship in California

You can receive daily cruise news updates directly to your inbox, so you don't miss a thing! Go ahead and Subscribe here.

The U.S. Coast Guard sprang into action after a retired cruise ship began sinking at her dock in Little Potato Slough, a river northwest of Stockton, California. 

Aurora, a non-operational 300-foot long cruise ship, began to sink at her berth into 13 feet of water below on May 22, 2024, where she remains partially submerged. The 1955-launched ship suffered a hole that caused the ship to fill with water. 

As she sank, the old vessel began leaking diesel fuel and oil into the river delta – with sheen that is indicative of an oil spill appearing on the surface of the water near the ship.

Sinking Aurora Cruise Ship
Sinking Aurora Cruise Ship

The U.S. Coast Guard responded urgently to reports of the sinking vessel to clean up the pollutants and refloat the ship before significant damage could be done by forming a united command with experts from the coast guard, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention & Response, and the City of Stockton. 

The coast guard also brought in a team of specialists from Global Diving and Salvage as contractors to better address the pollution quickly. 

Additionally, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network was been notified and is standing by to respond if needed, but so far none of the local wildlife appears to have been affected by the spill. 

Together, these organizations have pulled their resources to work on refloating Aurora, preventing further fuel, oil, or other chemicals from spilling into the waterway, and to recover the pollution that already escaped. 

“Containment boom is deployed around the vessel and the City’s drinking water intake pump station. Additional mooring lines were also attached to the vessel to ensure stability…Over the next several days, crews will work to maintain the containment boom, recover pollution, and conduct dive surveys to assess the vessel,” read a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The U.S. Coast Guard issued a notice of federal assumption and hired Global Diving and Salvage as a contractor to address the pollution, deploy hard boom and assess the status of the vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard also established a water safety zone around the vessel to enforce a no-wake zone within the area,” continued the release. 

Worth Reading: How Many Cruise Ships Have Sunk in History?

While the focus has thus far oriented around cleaning up pollutants, the refloating process officially started this week. 

On Monday, June 11, 2024, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention & Response posted this update on X: “Operations to refloat and remove any remaining petroleum will potentially begin this week. Be advised the safety zone around the vessel is still in place. No observed impacts to wildlife.”

Over a period of weeks to months, Aurora will be refloated through a slow-going process of patching and pumping out water. Once the process is finished, Aurora will either need a financier to refurbish the old ship or she will likely be scrapped and recycled for parts. 

Aurora recently changed hands to a new, unidentified owner, and it is unclear what they have planned for the historic vessel. 

Aurora’s Extraordinary Career At Sea

Originally christened as Wappen Von Hamburg, Aurora was the first large-scale ship building project completed by Blohm Voss in Hamburg, Germany, in the wake of World War II.

But she is most famous for serving as the inspiration for the hit “Love Boat” TV show in the 1970s and for appearing in the James Bond Film “From Russia With Love” in 1963.

Her career began on February 1, 1955 as a Hamburg-based ferry that would take passengers on day trips to and from Heligoland, a small archipelago in Germany that was popular for day trips.

Wappen Von Hamburg
Wappen Von Hamburg (Photo Credit: Oxfordian Kissuth)

The 1,600-person vessel’s relatively slow cruising speed of 17.5 knots per hour meant that it could take up to five hours to sail from Hamburg to the island, which was only 90 nautical miles away, allowing visitors just a couple hours to explore once they arrived. 

In 1960, Aurora was sold to the Nomikos Lines, a Greek cruise line, which renamed her Delos and turned the ship into one of the first luxury cruise ships on the Aegean Sea, complete with a swimming pool and air conditioning in all cabins.

Over the years, she changed owners and names many times – going by aliases like Polar Star, Pacific Star, Xanadu, Expex, and Faithful – and sailing to more destinations around the world, including Alaska, Panama, and the South Atlantic. 

Read Also: How and Why Did the Titanic Break in Half?

She was not given the name Aurora until 2009 when a former tech developer, named Chris Willson, bought the ship on Craigslist, well after her retirement in 1977. He worked to restore the ship, which had fallen into disrepair, with hopes of opening a museum onboard. 

Indeed, she served many roles during her retirement from cruising, including functioning as a private yacht, serving as a shelter for the homeless, and was even temporarily a floating children’s hospital. 

If you enjoyed the article and would like no fuss daily cruise news to your inbox directly from Cruise Hive, you can Subscribe here.


Free expert cruise tips and news from Cruise Hive! We'll send you the latest cruise updates daily to your inbox.

Don't Miss Any Cruise News!

We'll send you the latest cruise updates daily to your inbox.

Copy link