Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Shipping confusion at four ports in Canary Islands

There was a lot of confusion in the port of San Sebastian de La Gomera and to a lesser degree in the harbours of Vueltas in Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera, Los Cristianos on Tenerife and Santa Cruz de La Palma over the past couple of days. 
San Sebastian de La Gomera
First, the medium-sized (about 1000 passengers and crew) Malta-registered cruise ship Saga Sapphire docked in San Sebastian on Saturday instead of Santa Cruz de La Palma where it should have been according to the Saga Cruises programme for its mainly British passengers. This ship then was to dock in Valle Gran Rey's harbour on Sunday on its way back from the island of La Palma, but it remained in San Sebastian all day Sunday, leaving expectant V.G.R. wondering. In San Sebastian, meanwhile, the scheduled visit by the Balmoral, operated by Fred. Olsen Cruises, with about 1700 passengers and crew couldn't come into the harbour due to the cruise ship berth being occupied by the Saga Sapphire. The Balmoral went on to Santa Cruz de La Palma instead (probably taking the berth left vacant there by the Saga Sapphire) and then further on to Funchal,Madeira.

Part of San Sebastian pier
from the deck of the Armas
ferry Volcan de Taburiente
Next there were problems with Sunday's last ferry sailing by Naviera Armas. Their ship Volcan de Taburiente left Los Cristianos on the last scheduled sailing early Sunday night, but had to return to said port about a quarter of an hour later due to 'technical problems', which according to some reports concerned the doors of the vehicle decks of the ro-ro ferry. Back in Los Cristianos port passengers were told over the public address system that the sailing was suspended and because it was already getting late many passengers left the vessel. However, at about 11:30 pm the technical problem was repaired and the vessel left for La Gomera with remaining passengers to arrive in San Sebastian at about 00:30 am, leaving lots of those behind who had decided earlier to temporarily disembark.

Now back to the saga of the Saga Sapphire: This cruise ship was still in the same port early on Monday morning which, according to some crew members, was 'due to poor weather', but the weather was reasonably fair, and locally those 'in the know' said it was a failure of the side-thrusters - needed to propel a large motor vessel off the pier against the wind or current). The captain was quoted in some media reports as having asked for a tug, which La Gomera doesn't have and no visiting cruise ship even in the worst weather conditions ever needed here. 
At the same time another cruise ship, the Bermuda-registered Aurora, was sailing for a scheduled stop-over at San Sebastian de La Gomera with about 2500 passengers and crew aboard, and on coming closer to La Gomera this vessel had to resolve to to sail in ever widening circles off San Sebastian while waiting for the Saga Sapphire to vacate the cruise ship berth in the harbour. Meanwhile a good number of buses, tour guides, taxis, car rental reps, etc., were waiting on the pier for a long time, ready for the Aurora's pre-booked passengers. 
At lunchtime the berth was still blocked and the Aurora decided to wait no longer and sail on, bound for Funchal on Madeira. The larger cruise ship had barely rounded La Gomera's northern point when the Saga Sapphire finally left and vacated the berth, also bound for… you've guessed it - Madeira. This left La  Gomera free of all cruise ships for the remainder of yesterday and ready for the scheduled berthing of the Italian-registered Aida Vita cruise ship with about 1500 passengers and crew this morning. Keep the fingers crossed !
All  these cruise ships originally came here from Las Palmas on Gran Canaria, by the way.
I wonder who'll be claiming what of whom for the above chain of events...
Tour buses waiting a long time in vain for the Aurora on the pier of La Gomera's capital ©

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