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Dispute delays disabled cruise ship

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.

Joel Morgan, the minister of home affairs, said 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 today.

"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 liner is carrying 413 crew members and 627 passengers, including 212 Italians, 31 Britons and eight Americans.

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.

Morgan said the Seychelles is not happy that the financial objectives of the French vessel were put ahead of interests of the passengers.

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 today.

Adding to the concern is the fact the cruise ship is traveling through waters trafficked by Somali pirates.

The Allegra began drifting in the Indian Ocean after a fire broke out in its generator room Monday. Italian authorities plan to do "the first assessment" of how the fire started.

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