Angie Teo –
A stricken luxury cruise ship under Philippines and U.S. naval escort will reach a Malaysian port in Borneo island on late Sunday, Malaysian maritime officials and the ship’s owner said, after spending more than a day in waters prowled by pirates.
The Azamara Quest, carrying 600 passengers who are mostly westerners and 411 crew, suffered an engine-room fire on Friday that disabled the engines and left the ship temporarily stranded off the southern Philippines coast.
The fire, the latest in a string of cruise ship accidents across the world, was put out on Saturday although five crew members suffered from smoke inhalation with one requiring serious medical attention.
The 11-deck ship was now on its way to Sandakan port at Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo island after engineers restored its propulsion, Miami-based Azamara Club Cruises said in a Facebook posting on Saturday.
“The ship is expected to reach Sandakan port by 8.00 pm (1 p.m. British Time),” a Malaysian maritime authority official told Reuters.
A U.S. Navy vessel had joined the escort flotilla comprising of several Philippine Navy ships and a coast guard ship, Filipino officials said.
The vessels will follow the cruise ship until it crosses into Malaysian waters where a Malaysian patrol ship will be on hand to escort it to Sandakan port.
The heightened security comes as the waters off the coast of southern Philippines and northern Sabah are key hunting grounds for pirates and the Abu Sayyaf, a deadly Islamic militant group.
The Abu Sayyaf wants an independent Islamic nation in the south of Roman Catholic Philippines, and has been responsible for high profile kidnappings of westerners, including abducting tourists from a nearby Malaysian resort island in 2000.