Cruise ship passengers stranded at sea for days after 'biofoul' discovered

Cruise ship passengers have been stranded at sea for nearly a week after "biofoul" growth was discovered on the hull - with Australian officials refusing permission for it to dock.

Hundreds of holidaymakers are reported to be on board the ship, which officials say is approximately 12 nautical miles offshore from the Port of Adelaide and outside Australian waters.

It has been required to undergo hull cleaning to remove the biofoul - a common accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae or small animals - and prevent potentially harmful marine organisms being transported by the vessel into Australia, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry told Sky News.

The Viking Orion cruise ship has not docked since it left port in Wellington on Monday 26 December and has been at sea for nearly a week, according to ship tracking website Vessel Finder.

The DAFF said it had been notified of small amounts of biofoul on the vessel on 28 December and it had engaged the vessel and the Australian marine biosecurity unit to comply with standard biofoul management procedures.

Professional divers were engaged directly by the vessel line to clean the hull while at anchor outside Australian waters, it said.

Management of biofoul is a common practice for all arriving vessels, Australian officials added.

The ship is expected to dock in Melbourne today, the department said, though the arrival time is a matter for the vessel agent it noted.

Tweets from people who say they are on board the Viking Orion indicate the ship may not dock in Melbourne.

"And news this morning, the captain has canceled (sic) our next port in Melbourne. People are livid ... Another day sitting at sea where 2 boats are cleaning the ship hull," Kenn Heydrick said on 1 January.

Another tweeter who said they are on board, Dr Megan Remmel, said on the morning of 1 January that passengers are "no longer getting to disembark in Melbourne. That means we've missed 4 ports and will be stuck on this ship for almost 9 full days."

Viking said that the ship is due to dock on 2 January.

"The Viking Orion is scheduled to arrive in Melbourne, Australia on 2 January (local time), following the cleaning of a limited amount of standard marine growth from the ship's hull-a routine cleaning procedure for nautical vessels.

"While the ship needed to miss several stops on this itinerary in order for the required cleaning to be conducted, she is expected to resume the current itinerary," a spokesperson said.

"Viking is working directly with guests on compensation for the impact to their voyage."