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Cruise ship to spend extra hours at sea after French boat waived off tugs: Seychelles official
VICTORIA, Seychelles (AP) ' A disabled cruise ship will spend an extra 10 to 12 hours at sea without electricity, air conditioning or toilet facilities because a French fishing vessel that was first to respond to the drifting cruiser refused to give way to faster tug boats, a Seychelles government official said Wednesday.
A spokesman for the cruise line denied that the tow would have been faster with the tugs and said the disabled cruise ship was always scheduled to reach the Seychelles' main port on Thursday.
The government minister, Joel Morgan, told The Associated Press that the cruise ship Costa Allegra likely would have arrived in port Wednesday night local time if the tugs had been allowed to take over. Instead the ship is not scheduled to reach port until midmorning 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, Seychelles minister of home affairs, environment, transport and energy.
Morgan said that when the Seychelles tugs met up with the Costa Allegra on Tuesday, a "conversation" took place to see the fishing vessel step aside and the faster tugs put in place. "The discussion went on for quite a while to no avail," he said.
Davide Barbano, a Costa spokesman, denied that the tow would have been faster with the two tugs.
"It was decided to continue with that (the fishing vessel) because it guaranteed the smoothest voyage for those on board," he said.
Morgan said the Seychelles is not happy that the financial objectives of the French vessel was put ahead of interests of the passengers.
The Genoa, Italy-based Costa said the cruise ship Allegra would arrive at about 9 a.m. local time Thursday (0500 GMT, midnight EST) ' three days after the ship lost power and began drifting in the Indian Ocean. However, the ship's estimated arrival at port has been pushed back repeatedly, and the spokeswoman for the Seychelles president said late Wednesday that the Costa may not arrive until noon local time.
The Allegra began drifting in the Indian Ocean after a fire broke out in its generator room on Monday. Italy's Coast Guard said that a team from the Infrastructure and Transport Ministry's investigative unit has traveled to the island of Mahe with the Italian Coast Guard to do "the first assessment" of how the fire started.
Cmdr. Filippo Marini, however, said it was not a full-fledged investigation.
"This is a first assessment," Marini said. "It is not an active investigation."
A representative of the cruise ship company Costa Crociere said Wednesday that an investigation needs to be carried out before a determination is made as to whether the fire was an accident or set deliberately. The official said that investigators from the International Maritime Authority could also investigate. The official said he was not authorized to be identified.
Barbano said that while the investigation is still under way "arson is very unlikely."
Associated Press writers Victor L. Simpson and Colleen Barry contributed to this report from Rome.