Last Month the Costa Concordia, This Month the Costa Allegra
For the second time in as many months the Genoa Italy-based Costa Crociere Cruise Lines is receiving unwanted, unfavorable publicity in the world news. This time it is the cruise ship Costa Allegra which lost power and began drifting in the Indian Ocean after a fire in the ship's generator room. When at sea the generators supply all the electrical power for the ship. No one was reported injured in the fire but the ship was left without power, lights, communications, air conditioning or functioning toilets.
The Costa Allegra is carrying 636 passengers inclluding 8 Americans and 413 crew members. Four passengers are children three years of age or younger.
On Monday a French fishing vessel began towing the Costa Allegra to Victoria, the main port of the Seychelles Island Chain. On Tuesday two tugs arrived on scene and began pushing the cruise ship to help the French vessel. The vessel is expected to arrive in port around noon local time (midnight U.S. EST) Thursday provided nothing else goes wrong and the weather remains good and the seas relatively calm.
The area in which the ship lost power and began drifting is in a region where Somali pirates have long been active.
The Allegra, whose Italian name means "merry" or "happy" was built as a container ship in 1969 and converted into a cruise ship and re-named in 1992. She is 615 feet long, has a beam (width) of 94.5 feet and draws 26.9 feet of water.
As a former U.S. Coast Guard officer who served on high endurance cutters, I am amazed that there were no emergency back-up generators which would have enabled the ship's engines to continue to function and the ship to keep their communications up. What if instead of good weather and calm seas the had been storms and high seas. A ship adrift will eventually turn beam to the seas and the rolling could have been severe. Cruise ships are not designed nor are they prepared for severe rolling. Tables, chairs, and furniture are not secured to the deck. Also cruise ships have stabilizers to prevent excessive rolling but these would presumably be inoperative with the power lost.
And last, what if they had encountered pirates instead of a French fishing vessel? A cruise ship's best, and sometimes only defense, against pirates is to run from them. If the pirates' boats were faster and they overtook the cruise, they would have to attempt a high speed boarding while the cruise ship could use high pressure fire hoses to try to prevent the pirates boarding. But a dead, drifting ship would be a sitting duck.
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