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Costa Allegra Being Towed to Mahe, Helicopters Drop Food and SuppliesFebruary 28, 2012 By: Susan Young
|Photo courtesy of the Indian Navy|
The Italian Coast Guard has confirmed that Trevignon, a French fishing trawler has reached Costa Allegra in the Indian Ocean. The 28,597-ton cruise ship is without power about 200 miles southwest of Mahe, Seychelles, following a fire in the ship’s engine room on Monday.
Costa confirmed earlier that the ship was being towed by the 275-foot-long trawler to Desroches, an exclusive resort island near Alphonse Island. That’s about 20 miles from where the ship was located when the incident occurred.
However, in a statement just before 8 a.m. EST, today Costa opted to change course in how the evacuation would proceed. "In view of extensive collaboration with local maritime experts, in order to ensure the safety of our guests, disembarkation at Desroches Island cannot be performed, and therefore it has been decided that the ship will be towed directly to Mahe, Seychelles," the line's statement said.
Costa's statement continued: "The disembarkation at Desroches cannot be assured with adequate security conditions for mooring the ship and guest disembarkation. In addition, logistics and hotels on the island are not sufficient."
Disembarkation at Desroches, a small island with limited transportation infrastructure, would require an immediate transfer of guests from Desroches to Mahe via ferries after they had disembarked the ship via tenders. So the line made the decision to tow the ship directly to Mahe instead.
Costa's statement also said, "the assistance of two tugs that are approaching the ship will allow an increase in towing speed. The arrival at Mahe currently is scheduled for 6 a.m. local time Thursday, March 1. That is just a few hours later than if guests were disembarked at Desroches and transferred to Mahe via ferries."
Costa said a helicopter took off from Mahe, Seychelles, this morning to bring food and communication devices including satellite phones and VHF radios to the ship.
It also said, "helicopters will ensure a continuous supply of food, comfort items and flashlights in order to mitigate guests' discomfort given the difficult conditions on board. Costa Cruises is working with all the authorities responsible for the coordination of the emergency to ensure the best possible assistance to all our guests and to make their discomfort as short as possible and to reach their next destination as soon as possible."
Fire Put Out, No One Injured
The fire was put out by onboard fire suppression systems and a specially trained crew fire fighting team. Costa reported Monday that the blaze was out and did not spread to any other areas of the ship.
No passengers or crew were injured in the fire. Costa says 636 passengers and 413 crew are onboard. Of those, eight are American, 13 Canadian.
The line says it’s been successful at contacting about many of the passengers’ relatives and all of the crew members’ families. It also said the mood onboard was one of calm.
However, guests aren't likely to be too comfortable onboard the ship, as Costa Allegra is without power so not only does it lack propulsion, it also lacks electrical generating capacity for air conditioning, lighting, hot water heating or cooking. An emergency generator is powering the ship's radio and bridge lighting.
Costa said this morning that guests onboard are being continuously informed and assisted by the captain and the staff, and that a cold breakfast was served this morning
International Attention for Costa
Intense international attention has focused on the ship, due in part to the extensive international publicity related to the Costa Concordia accident off the coast of Giglio, Italy, in January.
Costa, which was criticized at the highest corporate levels for the way it handled the passenger evacuation and emergency procedures for Costa Concordia's guests and crew, was quick to confirm Monday that Costa Allegra sent out an immediate distress signal when the fire began.
It also reported that all passengers and crew not involved in fighting the fire were called to the ship’s muster stations. Costa said it began emergency procedures onboard immediately.
International attention is also focused on the ship’s plight because the location at which Costa Allegra lost propulsion is within an area that has been vulnerable to Somali pirate attacks.
While cruise ships typically have the speed to outrun pirate vessels and there has never been a successful boarding of a major cruise ship by pirates, a ship that’s adrift without propulsion could be an easy target.
Costa Cruises official Giorgio Moretti said yesterday that an armed team of nine Italian marines are onboard the ship as an anti-piracy precaution. Additional armed guards are also onboard the French fishing vessel.
Moretti also downplayed the piracy danger, noting that no pirates had been sighted and that the specific area where the ship was located had not had any incidents of late.