Crew members rescued from a stricken 5,000-tonne container ship yesterday said the drama could have ended in disaster. They said the vessel had been listing so badly it was in imminent danger of taking in water as it was lashed by six-metre waves. The Equator Pearl was on her first voyage from Singapore to Taiwan when its engines cut out in rough seas 150 kilometres south of Hong Kong. Nearly half of the 24-man crew had to be airlifted to safety as the vessel was battered by force eight gales on Sunday afternoon. But the ship was on its way to the territory under its own steam last night after mechanics finally managed to get it restarted. A salvage tug sent from Hong Kong after the helicopter rescue will remain on standby in case the engines fail again. Owner Thong Soon, a Singapore company, said the ship was expected in Hong Kong this evening . The Equator Pearl broke down at 5 am on Sunday during the 2,000 nautical mile voyage from Singapore to Taiwan. Crew members said mechanics struggled for eight hours to restart it. By the time they decided to abandon ship it was listing badly. 'It was rolling heavily - 40 degrees either way, which is good enough to cause a disaster. From 40 degrees most ships will start to take in water,' said one. 'We thought it was not a very sensible idea to stay on. I did not want to risk my life. The waves were pretty high. Everyone looked worried. They were very uncomfortable. 'The containers were empty. 'If they had been full it could have added another 3,000 tonnes to the weight.' Hung Tam-yuen, managing director of Thong Soon's Hong Kong branch, said: 'This was its maiden voyage to Taiwan. It usually goes to Malaysia and Thailand. 'I think the generator was the problem. But they have managed to get it working and the vessel is coming back by itself. 'When it arrives, we will have a look at it and then it will continue on to Taiwan.' The Government Flying Service sent two helicopters to the Equator Pearl after it ran into difficulties. Mr Hung denied the crew had been in danger.