Disabled cruise ship delayed by rule of sea, tow drivers to blame

A disabled cruise shipdisabled cruise ship, the Costa Allegra, is now docked at Port Victoria, Mahé, in the Seychelles, and disembarkation of guests is under way. The ship spent an extra 10 to 12 hours at sea without electricity, air conditioning, or toilet facilities all due to the hesitation of a French fishing vessel. First to respond to the emergency, the French vessel delayed rescue showing more concern about securing their claim to tow fees. They refused to allow faster tugboats to take over.

Seychelles government official Joel Morgan told The Associated Press that Costa Allegra would have likely arrived in port Wednesday night local time if the tugs had been allowed to take over. Instead, the ship arrived mid-day Thursday.

“The Seychelles authorities are not happy about this situation and we would have wished to get the ship into port as soon as possible in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the passengers,” said Morgan, the Seychelles minister of home affairs, environment, transport and energy, in an interview with Newsday.

The French vessel was towing at 4 nautical miles per hour. The tugboats could have traveled at 6 to 7 nautical miles per hour.The director of France’s Regional Operational Center for Surveillance and Rescue said maritime rules allowed the French fishing vessel to continue with the towing job.

“We were in a rescue operation; the tuna boat arrived first. Then there are negotiations, as one can imagine,” said Nicolas Le Bianic, a French official, in Newsday. “Any assistance to people is free, not the case here,” he said. “Assistance to the boat, in contrast, is paid. That’s the rule of principle set by maritime texts.”

We suppose that makes sense and encourages other ships to respond in situations such as this. They know that if they get there first they get the tow. But it kind of sounds like an episode of TruTV’s “South Beach Tow” where tow truck operators battle to get to the scene of an auto accident first in order to earn the tow charge.

Different from an episode of “South Beach Tow,” though, passengers off the ship today will spend a week or two (their choice) at a luxury Seychelles resort, compliments of the cruise line. Passengers from an episode of “South Beach Tow” usually just get a bill.

Flickr photo by bugeaters