• Sat
  • Sep 20, 2014
  • Updated: 5:19am
NewsHong Kong

Three other ships called at Ha Long Bay as Costa Victoria skipped port, travel watchdog told

Travel industry chief says ‘it is not accurate’ to claim ship was turned away by Vietnamese port

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 February, 2014, 6:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 3:11am

Costa Cruises - not Vietnamese port authorities - made the decision not to berth the Costa Victoria at popular tourist destination Ha Long Bay, the Travel Industry Council has been told.

The decision cut short a scheduled land excursion for some 300 passengers who later refused to leave the vessel in protest after it finished the trip in Hong Kong about two weeks ago.

Their sit-in caused a nine-hour delay to another 2,000 passengers who were scheduled on the next trip on the same vessel.

In a follow-up with the Vietnamese consular office, the travel watchdog was told that two barges hit each other on February 4, resulting in the sinking of one.

Maritime authorities closed the channel for an hour in the morning, but had reopened it by the time Costa Victoria neared the port, said the council's chairman, Michael Wu Siu-ieng.

Three other large vessels continued sailing to the Ha Long Bay port that day. Costa Victoria was the only one which refused to berth, he said. "It is not accurate to say Costa Victoria was refused entry into Ha Long Bay due to safety reasons," he said.

In a previous statement, Costa said the decision not to enter the bay was made "in compliance with the instruction from local Vietnamese port authorities, for safety reasons", and it was a decision beyond the firm's control.

The captain usually has the final say in a cruise ship's itinerary, the council's executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said. It is written in disclaimers, so it would be difficult for tourists to seek compensation when excursions were skipped. He also advised discontented passengers against refusing to leave a boat. "It is illegal, and cruise companies may sue passengers for compensation," he said.

Costa paid an estimated US$90,000 in extra berthing fees due to the delay caused by the protesting passengers, he said. The company has said it would reserve the right to take legal action. Miramar Travel, which sold the Costa cruise package to 1,000 local customers, offered compensation in red packets.

In response to the council's comments, Costa Cruises reiterated that its ship could not get to the anchorage position as scheduled after it followed port authority instructions. "The decision to reroute the itinerary … was based solely on the interests of passenger safety," a spokeswoman said.



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This article is now closed to comments

Sue Ann Chiang in any event. We cannot have HK being known as a port where tourist can remain on board to blackmail the carrier (whether it is a plane or ship) for compensation. We have rule of law in HK. There are other avenues for redress if a wrong has been committed.
Come on - you cannot go by disclaimers. What about social legitimacy - people should have a right to defend themselves on the grounds of reasonable action. Perhaps the captain was lazy or worse drunk.
They mention several other large vessels, How large?? They say only closed for an hour!! I cannot see that a sinking in a channel, if that is what it was could close the port for just one hour. The Consulate may not always get quite the right side of the matter given they are not mariners and only tell what they want people to hear to avoid embarrassment to the port authorities.
The master has the responsibility at the end of the day and its unlikely he made the wrong decision regarding this particular matter at that particular time. All he would have had to go on was advice from the Port, and that is as good as shifting sand dunes.
As for one of the complainants, their politics say it all.. nothing further to add.


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