November 24: Maritime Matters readers at Changi Airport, Singapore spotted the NORWAY (ex FRANCE) far out to sea, presumably being towed, destination unknown. NORWAY has been anchored off Port Klang since August 10, 2005.
December 19: Despite an eye witness placing the NORWAY off Singapore, she remains laid up at Port Klang. Rumours in maritime circles suggest that today Star Cruises has invited bids on the ex FRANCE from scrap merchants.
NORWAY's Fate Sealed?
December 28: Various industry sources in the U.S. and India have indicated that a firm sale of SS NORWAY (ex FRANCE) to either Indian or Bangladeshi breakers has occurred this week. The vessel has reportedly been withdrawn from the sales lists following this development. In the interim, the ship is still at anchor off Port Klang, Malaysia. More specifics are forthcoming.
This is very sad for those who love ocean liners of the North Atlantic. Truly, an architectural loss for all time. I hope the demise is thoroughly documented on film before she disappears forever. One would have thought that the ship might have become homes for last year's tsunami victims, if nothing more. She deserves a better fate.
Still, this is business, not personal. The world she belongs to has always revolved around the profit margin and the bottom line. Like "Normandie" and "Ile de France" before her, something very temporal is slipping through our fingers.
"As to France, I get the impression she has been quietly taken away under the cover story of making a floating resort or casino. The owners have avoided the protests and cries of "Save the France!" very nicely."
NORWAYs' Scrap Deal Demolished?
January 20: France's TV FR3 report that Star Cruises have cancelled the recent sale of NORWAY to Indian scrappers. The reversal came from fears of potential legal action being taken against the company for breaking an agreement to not sell the asbestos-laden ship for scrap when she was towed away from Bremerhaven last year. Various environmental groups have recently put pressure on European nations for selling toxic ships to Asian shipbreakers where standards are more relaxed. There are further reports that suggest the Malaysian Government has been investigating the sale. The NORWAY, inactive since a fatal boiler explosion in Miami killed eight crew members in 2003, remains at anchor off Port Klang, Malaysia.
Perhaps there is life left in the old girl? Perhaps someone recognizes her place in the annulls of the North Atlantic crossing?
Perhaps somebody offered a better price???
Let's hope it's a complete reversal of fortune.
It's probably little more then a stay of execution I'm afraid. Much the same drama is playing out over the decommissioned French aircraft carrier Clemenceau. I suspect that what's going to happen is some sort of courtroom drama followed by some sort of deal being struck to clean out the asbestos before making that final trip to Alang.
I'd like to be wrong about this, but realistically, I'm probably not.
It's not just the Norway either. Asbestos has been a bugaboo for quite some time now, but it's not the only substance which raises concerns. Hydraulic fluid is another one (Some are made to formulas which are pretty toxic!) and the gods only know what other "goodies" await scrappers on some really old vessels.
I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that some really positive action is going to have to be taken. These old hulks don't get any younger and substantial numbers of them are in very poor material condition. The devil in this detail is that cleanup can so damned expensive that at present, it's cheaper for the owners to either send the ship someplace where nobody cares or park the beast in some backwater estuary and hope the bloody thing doesn't sink at it's anchorage.
While on the subject, has there ever been any proof of ships being deliberately sunk while under tow to scrapyards? Like both of you reminded us, quite a few liners died that way, only to suggest that it was "fate"...
>>While on the subject, has there ever been any proof of ships being deliberately sunk while under tow to scrapyards?<<
Probably not enough to take anyone to court over. The problem with proving something like this is that the evidence lies about one or two miles down and you won't find a lot of jurisdictions willing to pony up the cash for an expedition and the forensics work. Besides, as I indicated, a lot of these ships going to the scrapyards are in very poor condition and often have to be towed to the breakers. If they spring a few leaks going around the Cape of Good Hope, part their tows and sink, well, that's not going to be regarded as especially suspicious. Especially when it's a wonder that they even got it out of the harbour in a dead calm without the thing sinking.
In the discussion on the sinking of the Oklahoma while under tow, I wonder to myself - How many people would volunteer to ride on the tow, given its nature as a shipwreck looking for a place to sink...
>>I wonder to myself - How many people would volunteer to ride on the tow, given its nature as a shipwreck looking for a place to sink...<<
Enough that nobody appears to have a great problem getting volunteers to do exactly that. I don't think it's expected that every vessel on it's way to the breakers is going to sink and in most cases, there's a substantial financial interest in getting the ship there intact...at least for the buyer. While a substantial number of such vessels are in very bad shape, some are in surprisingly good material condition and make that final voyage under their own power. The only reason their being scrapped is because they're outmoded.
I saw a program a number of months ago about one of the Indian scrapping operations. I was suprised to see that a lot of the ships are not only under their own power, they run themselves up on the shore.
I suspect I would volunteer, there is something, I don't know what, that appeals to me about taking the last ride on a ship like the France.