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Paul Bird
Posted on Saturday, October 27, 2001 - 04:34 pm:   

Liner impounded after cockroaches get free ride
Steven Morris

Guardian

Wednesday July 4, 2001


From a distance the cruise liner Ocean Glory looked as pretty as a picture yesterday, her white hull sleek against a bright sky, her chimney billowing smoke.

Close up, it was a different story. Travellers who disembarked at Dover told horror stories of life on board. An infestation of cockroaches was found in the galley and the boat had been left without power and lighting during the voyage from Lisbon to Dover. On one occasion it drifted for three hours in the notoriously stormy Bay of Biscay.

After it docked at Dover officials from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency checked the liner and found 35 faults. They were so concerned that they ordered 600 passengers who had boarded the ship for a week-long cruise to the Norwegian fjords to disembark and the vessel was impounded.

Alan Morgan, surveyor for Dover Marine Office, said he had never encountered a liner with such problems. He said: "She was a potential hazard."

As well as the infestation of cockroaches, fire extinguishers were missing, doors were wedged open and fuel was leaking from generators. The crew, which included Greeks, Ukrainians and Bugarians, did not know enough English for a standard lifeboat drill. Radio equipment was faulty and the engine room was dirty.

Some of the holidaymakers, who had paid several hundred pounds for the cruise to Norway, were allowed to spend Monday night on board for a free bar and show but it was as close as they were to come to life on the ocean wave.

Most were angry but relieved, having heard the stories from those who had travelled from Portugal on the 50-year-old ship. They will now be seeking compensation. The ship has seven passenger decks and 335 cabins. Facilities include three swimming pools, a cinema, casino and library.

It has been beset by problems in the past. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency received complaints from passengers on a Mediterranean cruise on the liner - then called Aegean Spirit - in February.

One passenger who sailed on the ship at Christmas, Danny Callaghan, claimed: "She rocks and rolls in even moderate seas. The public areas are acceptable as long as you like the smell of diesel ... if you are lucky the sewage will not come up in your shower."

There have also been structural problems. Lloyd's List reports that last June a fuel leak caused a bulkhead in the fuel tank to give way while the vessel was in Crete, forcing the evacuation of more than 500 people.

In March the ship was taken over by Cruise Holdings Maritime Corporation.

Since then, said spokesman Christof Karavos, the company had embarked on an "intensive maintenance programme".

He said that during the current voyage from Greece to Dover via Portugal the ship had been inspected by two sets of marine coastguards and been given permission to sail.

But the Panama-registered ship will not be allowed to leave Britain until Dover Port Authority clears it to do so.

Last night some of the crew members joined passengers leaving the ship.

As he left the boat one crew member said: "I do not feel safe on this boat."

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