Ports & Ships Cruise News

Feb 13, 2009
Author: Terry Hutson

  • Sighs of relief for creditors as Royal Star goes on auction

  • Queuing up for a piece of the Blue Lady – aka SS FRANCE

  • Mona Lisa visits Mombasa

  • QE2 a possible victim of economic downturn

  • Celebrity Eclipse’s keel is laid


    Sighs of relief for creditors as Royal Star goes on auction

    ROYAL STAR after visiting Durban in 2007. Picture by David Shackleton

    The former Kenyan-based cruise ship ROYAL STAR (5,067-gt, built 1956), which has been abandoned in Mombasa harbour for much of last year, is finally to go on sale by auction.

    The cruise ship as operated by Starline Cruises of Basle has been providing cruises in Kenyan and Indian Ocean waters since 1990 on behalf of a Swiss-owned travel and lodge company, African Safari Club until her arrest and detention last year for non-payment of her crew. At that point the owners seemingly abandoned the ship in Mombasa, her ‘homeport’.

    Built in 1956 as the passenger cargo ship SAN GIORGIO, the ship later underwent name changes and ownership becoming the CITY OF ANDROS in 1976 and the OCEAN ISLANDER in 1984.

    In 1992 under her most immediate owners and renamed ROYAL STAR, she underwent a full refit which included changes to cabin layouts, reducing the former 276 passenger capacity to a more comfortable 200.

    Most of her cruises subsequently took place in Kenyan and Seychelles waters but in recent years the ship began appearing in South Africa during the month of December, sailing as far as Cape Town and Walvis Bay.

    After remaining at her moorings in Mombasa harbour for much of 2008 the Admiralty Marshal of the High Court of Kenya issued an order that the ship be re-advertised for sale. The ruling stated that offers for the purchase of the vessel should be received in court at the latest by 26 February 2009 with bids being opened the following day, 27 February 2009.

    For the crew who remain unpaid and in most cases destitute, this brings a ray of hope that some if not all outstanding wages will be met. Of the 128 crew on the ship at the time of her arrest only the musicians were paid outstanding monies and then only after some lengthy discussions. It is believed that at least €450,000 remains owing to crew in lieu of wages and salaries. The crew consists of Filipinos, Indonesians, Greek officers and a Bulgarian ships master. Entertainment staff include Moldovan dancers, Austrians and Russians.

    Royal Star has been estimated to have a scrap value of approximately US$750,000, barely sufficient to cover crew costs let alone any outstanding port fees and other costs.

    Tracing the true owner of the ship, as is often the case, is proving difficult. Until now it was the norm to think that African Safari Club owned and operated the ship. Her registered owner however is shown to be Hapero Shipping, a company listed in the Bahamas under the company registration number 1641361. The ship management and ISM management companies are listed as Starline Cruises of Mombasa. It also appears the ship is owned by Hapero of the British Virgin Islands, a shell-type company owned by Fininvest also of British Virgin Islands and from where the vessel was chartered to Starline Cruises (BVI). To continue the convoluted path of how these things operate, the crew was recruited and employed by Tourism Hotel Agency Services (THASL) BVI, and ‘rented’ out to Starline Cruises which in turn rented them to African Safari Club.

    African Safari Club operates six hotels in Kenya and arranges cruises along the River Nile in Egypt.

    Ports & Ships hopes to monitor progress with the sale of this Royal Star and the status of her unpaid crew.

    Queuing up for a piece of the Blue Lady – aka SS FRANCE


    On her way to the breakers, although no-one was admitting that at the time. The SS Norway, the former SS France passes Cape Town under tow. Picture by Ian Shiffman

    Enthusiasts and collectors travelled to Paris last week to bid for mementoes of the once former grand Lady of France, the transatlantic liner SS FRANCE.

    The 76,049-gt ship, once the longest passenger ship in service and the symbol of French maritime elegance, is currently on an Indian beach being cut up. Numerous items of furniture and relics have been removed with some of these being sent to Paris for last week’s sale. Catering largely for the nostalgia market, as many of the really valuable collectibles on the ship were sold off years ago, the auction drew enthusiastic support from those determined to have a piece of the lady.

    The largest chunk of the ship on sale was a four-tonne piece of steel, standing 6m tall which was placed on exhibit outside the auctioneer’s showroom, which drew a mixture of puzzled and admiring looks from passersby. The item was off the prow of the ship, her ‘nose’ one might say, and was considered to be one of the prize relics on offer.

    Altogether some 446 items went on auction, having been acquired from the ship breaker’s yard to cater for a growing French interest in nostalgia. Items included working parts of the ship as well as the more decorative, such as the captain’s chair and barstools and the inevitable portholes and lengths of railing. Even children’s nursery decorations were on sale, as was a control panel from the great ship’s engine room.

    The auctioneer described the sale a last and final homage to the ship.

    Mona Lisa visits Mombasa

    The cruise ship VICTORIA on her maiden Africa cruise in 1999, the one and only time she appeared with Union-Castle colours on her funnel. Later the ship reverted to P&O’s familiar yellow funnel before passing into other hands and being renamed MONA LISA

    The MONA LISA became a rare cruise ship visitor in Mombasa last week (4 February) when she arrived under charter to the Japanese Peace Boat organisation.

    The 28,891-gt vessel is deployed on a three-month voyage out of Yokohama to the Indian Ocean and is participating in the Peace Boat organisation’s ‘64th Global Voyage for Peace’ . The ship sailed from Japan on 15 January and will visit 19 ports across 16 countries before returning home.

    Until recently Mona Lisa, which is owned by Leonardo Shipping has been catering for the German cruising market with Holiday Kreuzfahrten, until the bankruptcy of that company in 2006. This led to some fears of her going to the breakers, which proved unfounded despite the ship being laid up for a period in Piraeus harbour. She served as a hotel ship during the Asian Games held in Dohar later that same year and has since served several short charters, including being a replacement for the ill-fated SEA DIAMOND which sank off Santorini in 2007.

    One of her earlier and more memorable charters was during the summer months of 1999/2000 when the ship, then renamed VICTORIA was chartered by the Union-Castle Line for its Centenary Voyage around Africa, which it was hoped would prove to become a revival of the once famous company. It was not to be and the voyage, successful more in her southbound journey than the return via the East Coast, was also her last in that guise, with the ship returning afterwards to P&O duty.

    Mona Lisa’s recent visit to Mombasa is one of only a few cruise ship calls at the Kenyan port this summer. Many cruise companies appear to be staying away from anywhere near the Somali coast, a phenomena which it is hoped will prove to be of short duration.

    QE2 a possible victim of economic downturn

    The luxury cruise ship SEVEN SEAS VOYAGER visited Lyttelton, the port of Christchurch, New Zealand on 4 February. Alan Calvert took the picture.

    The economic crisis facing the world may reflect negatively on the transformation of the QE2 into a floating hotel in Dubai. Reports suggest that Nakheel, the Dubai company behind the project of converting the world’s most famous liner into a hotel and entertainment centre, has already scaled back on the conversion.

    These reports say that up to 500 jobs have been slashed and speculation is rife that the ship may even end up on a one-way voyage to the breakers yard. Other talk centres around Cunard agreeing to re-purchase the ship. Either scenario may seem inconceivable but you decide for yourself while remembering the fate of the SS Norway, the former SS France. When she was towed to South East Asia she too was to be ‘saved’ and converted into something new and exciting and long lasting, or so everyone hoped. Instead this past week people were bidding at a Paris auction just to have a small and expensive piece of her as a keepsake.

    Nakheel’s intentions were to convert the ship with much larger bedrooms and apartment type suites, add a 500-seat theatre for Broadway-style shows and create a 5,000m2 Spa complex. The ship would also have her own berth on Palm Island, the man-made island off the coast of Dubai.

    At the moment the fears remain pure speculation but the project has been put back by one year. The problem is one of money, or rather the sudden lack of it. An alternative to fears of the ship being scrapped or returned to Carnival/Cunard (the latter being highly unlikely) is that of scaling back on her conversion, which may prove a more likely solution. Time only will now tell.

    Celebrity Eclipse’s keel is laid

    CELEBRITY SOLSTICE, the first of a planned five Solstice class cruise ships for Celebrity Cruises, sets sail on her inaugural voyage to the Caribbean last November.
    Picture courtesy of

    Papenburg (Germany) - The first block out of a total of 72 of the new 122,000-gt passenger cruise vessel CELEBRITY ECLIPSE for Celebrity Cruises was put in place in the yard's covered building dock II recently. The dock had to be specially lengthened by 120 metres to accommodate the ship buildings.

    In January 2008 the Prime Minister of Lower-Saxony, Christian Wulff, laid the corner stone of the new dock area.

    Harri Kulovaara (Executive Vice President Maritime & Newbuilding), Christer Schoug (Vice President Newbuilding) and Project Director Jarmo Laakso of Celebrity Cruises placed the traditional ‘lucky cents’ in this new part of the dock of the shipyard before the first block of the
    new ship was lowered by the 800-tonne crane (sailors and shipping people are a superstitious bunch). The first block weighs approximately 550 tonne, is 16m long, 36.80m wide and is approximately 8m high.

    Meyer Werft (the builder) was represented by Bernard Meyer (Managing Partner), Lambert Kruse (Managing Director) and Uwe Wulff (Project Manager). The Celebrity Eclipse is the third ship in a series of five for Celebrity Cruises of Miami, USA.

    The delivery of the ship to Celebrity Cruises is scheduled for 2010. Celebrity Eclipse has a length overall of 317m, a breadth of 36.80m, and will be able to operate at a speed of more than 24 knots. More than 2,852 passengers will be accommodated in 1,426 cabins. This class of ships features plenty of technical innovations. It will contain numerous energy-saving systems, and is built in line with the latest stability regulations. (press release)

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