The MS Rasa Sayang Disaster In 1977

I was sitting in the theatre around midnight,
With a few friends of our Malaysian crew,
Watching "Poseidon" the classic disaster film
Of a cruise liner while sailing in the ocean
Was overturned by giant waves out of the blue.


I had seen this movie couple of times before,
Since there was nothing else, I watched it anyway,
Not knowing this film was going to mirror,
That in approximately six hours' time,
Our own liner was going to signal mayday.


When the film ended it was a bit late,
I went straight back to my cabin after the show,
Around two I was woken by the ship's alarm
Sounding urgently of an emergency
Somewhere down in the crew area below.


At this moment we had ship's procedures to check,
That the passengers nearest us knew where to go,
We helped them get to their stations up on deck,
For some drowsy people were still not too awake
And they couldn't tell what's above and what's below.


It seemed that someone had started a fire,
In a corridor of the section I was near,
I stayed on deck talking with the passengers,
To calm them and explain that the danger was slight
And our firemen were dealing with the fear.


Most people were in pyjamas and shorts,
And whatever they managed to slip into;
For hours the firefighters fought the flames,
But as time passed, it was a slowly losing game,
And the hoses were running out of water too.


Then, like an unbelievable thriller movie,
Stormy rains as though fated suddenly appeared,
Soon some people were shivering and soaking wet,
The crew gathered and passed out loads of dry blankets,
We stayed on deck 'til six o'clock finally neared.


The fire was burning fiercely out of control,
And the liner was leaning badly to one side,
Also the wait was getting too nervous to people.
And although the Captain wanted to avoid,
He had no choice but to finally decide.


He gave the sad order to abandon ship,
So the doors of the lifeboats which were standing by
The sailors quickly opened them fully wide,
And seven hundred passengers hurried inside,
With heavy water still pouring down from the sky.


Then the boats were swiftly lowered onto the sea,
Where they bobbed around for rescue from ships nearby,
The standard mayday signal had been radioed out,
There was only one Japanese tanker about,
Which heard and rushed its way to our distressed cry.


When it arrived some lifeboats headed towards it,
While other boats headed towards Port Dickson shore,
Most of us could see some lights in the distance,
Our boats made their way quckly towards them,
For a distance of three miles or slightly more.


The Red Cross helpers were already waiting there,
They had set up cups and tables on the beach,
Waiting with hot drinks, while other volunteers
Helped nervous and some disabled passengers
To a nearby emergency town hall reach.


About three hours later, some buses arrived,
All the passengers were sorted out and placed
In the buses to travel for three hours more,
Southwards to Singapore city and to where
The company's official cruise office was based.


In the city's starred hotels they briefly stayed,
And everyone was given some token cash,
To help them organise their temporary stay,
Though everything had been hurriedly planned,
Everyone was calm, no one did anything rash.


The fire lasted a week on the burning ship,
The crew area seemed like it had been grilled or fried,
And four unfortunate young sailors lost their lives,
A few elderly passegers were slightly hurt,
But fortunately among them no one died.


In all, it was really well organised throughout,
The whole integrated rescue operations,
And though there were some small disputable complaints,
We were still ever so thankful and also proud,
Of the captain, officers, crew, and management
And Malaysia's and Singapore's quick reactions.   


The Event:

In 1977, Singapore's luxury cruise liner the Ms Rasa Sayang with around 700 passengers of adults and children was sailing in the Straits of Malacca on its way from Singapore to Penang for a four-day cruise when it was apparently sabotaged by one or more disgruntled sailor(s). The ship caught fire as it was passing Port Dickson. After the abandonment of the ship, the Norwegian captain of the Ms Rasa Sayang refused permission for Malaysian police to board it as the ship was a Singapore ship. The crippled liner was instead towed back to its owners in Singapore (where it was officially registered). The ship was in dry dock for a few weeks for repairs and investigations by Singapore authorities. After that, it sailed again for another year and then the ship's owners decided to terminate their cruises and its Cruise East offices closed down. So that was the end of the Singapore luxury cruise liner.