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French cruise ship breaks customs laws, lets passengers into protected wilderness preserve

By Staff

  • From Hornstrandir The Hornstrandir Wilderness Preserve is a unique untouched part of Iceland's most remote area. Photo/Guðmundur Þ. Egilsson

The captain of a French cruise ship broke customs laws when he allowed passengers to enter into the protected wilderness reserve of Hornstrandir. The ship had not applied for permits to dock in the reserve and let passengers disembark and enter the preserve. An Icelandic company which arranged for the ship's visit has taken responsibility for the incident, promising it will not be repeated.

A protected wilderness preserve
On Saturday a French cruise ship, Leborial, came to shore in the Hornstrandir wilderness preserve in the northern part of the Westfjords. The ship is carrying 181 passengers who have been touring the Arctic ocean, including the coast off Greenland. Arriving off the coast of Hornstrandir the ship sailed into Veiðileysufjörður fjord, where it anchored and allowed passengers to enter the preserve on smaller boats.

The ship then continued its voyage, stopping in two more fjords where passengers were also allowed to go to land.

Read more:  Growing tourism threatens the value of the nature preserve of Hornstrandir in the Westfjords

The ship, its captain, or passengers did not have permission to enter the preserve. The captain also broke Icelandic customs laws by permitting passengers on land before the ship had passed through customs.  

Hesteyri, Hornstrandir, harbour repair

Hesteyri An abandoned village in Hornstrandir, one of the places where the cruise ship stopped. Photo/Vesturfirðir, Facebook

A local guide who runs a tour company which operates in Hornstrandir told the local news site Vísir that it was strange that a giant cruise ship could just sail into any fjord in the preserve and send huge crowds to land without any permits. "This is a protected area," he stressed.

The Coast Guard was notified of the incidence. The Coast Guard contacted the captain to order him to call the passengers back onboard the ship, and let him know he was in violation of Icelandic law. According to the local news site Vísir the captain complied. The incidence is under investigation, and is considered a serious breach.

Captain refused to talk to local media
The local TV Station Stöð 2 contacted the captain of the cruise ship for comment. The captain said it was "exciting" for the passengers to experience what Iceland had to offer. He initially claimed the ship had all necessary permits for its travel in Iceland, but when he was pressed on the visit to Hornstrandir he abruptly ended the interview and ordered the media crew off the ship.

An Icelandic company which arranged for the visit of the French cruise ship has accepted full responsibility for the incidence. A spokesman for the company told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that the whole affair could be chalked up to a "misunderstanding". The company had believed the ship was only planning on sightseeing along the coast of Hornstrandir, and had therefore not applied for the permits necessary for landing. The captain, in turn, had believed all necessary permits were in place.

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