Sunday, 21 April 2013

Ship Profiles 3: Azores [updated March 2014]

Name: MS Azores (At the time of writing this post, Athena)
IMO number: 5383304
Built: 1948
Lenght: 160m
Beam: 21m
Draught: 7,9m

Tonnage: 15 614 GRT
Type: Cruise ship
Speed: 17 knots

Decks: 8
Capacity: 556 passengers
Status: In service

Athena is a vessel with a very long and colorful history. She's one of the oldest ships in the world that are still afloat, and a lot has happened during all those years. 

Athena entered service in 1948. In the same year Steven Tyler, Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper were born. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated; the first monkey astronaut Albert I was launched into space; the Korean peninsula was split in two coutries: Republic of Korea and Democratic People's Republic of Korea, more known as South and North Korea.
The devastating World War II had ended three years before, resulting in major changes on the political map of the world, with many new countries founded and even more occupied. The Soviet Union was ruled by Joseph Stalin, the president of the United States was Harry S. Truman, George VI was the king of the United Kingdom and the Pope was Pius XII.

It's pretty obvious that during all those years, Athena didn't always have the same name and look. She was built as MS Stockholm, and ever since she's also been known as Völkerfreundschaft, Fridtjof Nansen, Italia I, Italia Prima, Valtur Prima and Caribe. She was renamed to her current name in 2005.

The reason why she has lasted this long is probably pure luck. The average ship has a lifespan of 30  years, and sooner or later a ship will be scrapped or lost. Some ships, like the Athena, keep on going from one owner to another without being scrapped though. And it's definitely not because of uneventfulness - Athena has been through several accidents and refits.

The most famous of them happened 8 years after Athena, then known as Stockholm was launched. On the late evening of 25. July 1956, about 12 hours after departing from New York, in heavy fog, she collided with the Italian liner Andrea Doria at a 90 degree angle. The collision resulted in Andrea Doria sinking, despite all the preventive efforts of the crew both before and after the collision. Stockholm's bow was badly damaged and after rescuing some of Andrea Doria's crew and passengers, she returned to New York for repairs.

Damaged Stockholm returning to New York
Ironically, 33 years later in 1989, she was sold to StarLauro, now known as MSC Cruises. She was named Italia I and delivered to Genoa, which was the home of the sunken Andrea Doria. That caused some big emotions and reactions; the Italian press called her "La nave della morte" (The ship of death).

At the same time, she was extensively rebuilt from an ocean liner to a modern cruise ship.

In 2008 in the Gulf of Aden, pirates tried to attack her, but an US Navy aircraft made some of the pirate boats flee. The Athena crew fired water cannons at the rest, preventing them from boarding, and the vessel managed to escape with no damage.

During her long career Athena has done many transatlantic voyages and different cruises all around the world. She has even served as a barracks ship in Norway. Unfortunately for now her future is uncertain; in September 2012 she was arrested in Marseille, France for large fuel bills and unpaid crew wages.

Inside Athena
Athena in Kiel canal about a month before arresting.

march 2014 update: She is now called Azores and owned by Portuscale Cruises, but currently under charter and doing cruises in North Sea. 

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