The polar bear guard is out of danger, with no threat to life, while the company said that the polar bear was shot in an act of self-defence.

GET THE SAFETY4SEA IN YOUR INBOX!

The incident happened when a four-person polar bear guard team, who are always on board for these expedition cruises as required by law,  prepared for a shore leave. One of the guards was unexpectedly attacked by a polar bear that had not been spotted and he was unable to react himself.

As Hapag-Lloyd Cruises described:

As the attempts of the other guards to evict the animal were not successful, there had to be intervention for reasons of self-defence and to protect the life of the attacked person. The injured person was immediately provided with medical care and flown to a hospital with a rescue helicopter. We are in personal, direct contact with him. His condition is stable and he remains responsive.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is now cooperating with the Norwegian authorities to clarify the incident, while it said that it is "extremely sorry that this incident has happened."

Landings in Spitzbergen are possible only in a few places; these are not there for polar bear observation, as polar bears are only observed from aboard ships, from a safe distance.

To prepare for a shore leave, the polar bear guards go ashore in advance after sighting the landing site as a group and without passengers. They then set up a land station and check the area again to make sure that there are no polar bears in sight. As soon as such an animal approaches, the shore leave would be stopped immediately, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises explained.