With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian


Flotta Lauro Lines

 Achille Lauro

ex Willem Ruys


 Flotta Lauro released this post card prior to her completion


Part Two - Achille Lauro

At the end of 1964, due to poor passenger loadings, Willem Ruys was laid up in Rotterdam, and Oranje was laid up in Amsterdam. Both, these old rivals were placed on the market and sold. In January 1965, she was officially handed over and renamed Achille Lauro after the managing director of the Lauro Line.

She was about to be extensively rebuilt and modernised by CN Riuniti di Palermo. On August 29, the ship was rocked by an explosion, and a fire broke out. After, the ship was safe, work was continued, but obviously, completion was delayed.

Externally there were some significant changes made to this already beautiful ship. The most obvious being, her twin funnels, each were the heightened, painted blue, with the traditional Lauro star added. The high slim-line funnels were topped by stylish twin smoke dispersers, giving Achille Lauro a distinctive look. In addition, promenade deck was extended forward with glazing, whilst her upper decks aft were also glazed in to protect the forward pool from the wind. Her hull was repainted dark blue, with a red boot topping. Undoubtedly, she was a magnificent sight, for a pre-war ship, looking very much like new modern liner. Her gross tonnage had now been increased to 23,629. Sadly, the Achille Lauro became a much troubled ship right up to her eventual sinking on December 2, 1994.

Achille Lauro arriving in Sydney

This beautiful ship was placed once again on the Australian service. April 13, 1966 Achille Lauro departed Genoa heading for Sydney Australia, continuing on to Wellington New Zealand. She remained on this service for six years. However, due to a lack of passengers, she was withdrawn from service. Achille Lauro was about to join the cruise industry.

Achille Lauro was involved in a collision with a cargo ship, the Youssef. This incident resulted in one casualty. Sadly, the cargo ship Youssef sank. Then in 1981, Achille Lauro suffered yet another fire. After repairs, she was placed back into service again.

In 1982, the Tenerife authorities seized her as Lauro Line had not paid the port duties. She remained laid up for several months before she was able return to her homeport, Genoa. She was again laid up until Lauro Lines paid their various debts.

Lauro Lines merged with the Chandris Line in 1985. It would be this year, that became Achille Lauro’s most notorious year ever, with an event, which the world would remember, even to this day. On October 7, 1985, Achille Lauro was on a ten-day cruise,however, just before arriving at Alexandria, the Achille Lauro was taken hostage by five Palestinian terrorists.

The Santa Maria

Not since the hijacking of the Argentinean Liner Santa Maria, by a Portuguese rebel group on January 23, 1961. The Santa Mariawas held for 13 days. The Palestinian terrorists were in a rage, when they murdered a disabled passenger, American Mr. LeonKlinghoffer. After which, they threw him and his wheelchair overboard. After various demands, the Egyptian authorities gave the hijackers permission to leave the ship without punishment. As they left the ship, they made a victorious lap around the harbour, soon after they departed by plane. However, the American authorities forced them down over Sicily. In the meantime, the Egyptian government retained the Achille Lauro, in retaliation. Again, whilst under the Italian flag, she suffered another crisis. Eight days later, the Achille Lauro returned to her homeport. One of the terrorists was captured by the Americans during the 2003 war Iraq.

The cruising lifestyle around the pool

The ship continued her cruise duties, although she was re-flagged in 1987, when the Lauro Line became Star Lauro. In 1990, a TV movie was made, named, “Voyage of Terror - The Achille Lauro Affair,” starring Burt Lancaster and Eve Marie Saint. Like most movies, we cannot believe what it shows, as general exterior shots were of other cruise ships, even cargo ships, but it came off reasonably well.

Post card release by Star Lauro

The Achille Lauro now sailing under a Swiss flag

Several years later came the demise of the great Willem Ruys / Achille Lauro. November 30 1994, she was cruising off Somalia in the Indian ocean, when yet another fire broke out. This time there would be no reprieve for her, as this fire would be devastating. After the fire began to burn out of control, the captain gave the order to abandon ship at 0500 local time, 0200 GMT. All 1,090 passengers and crew abandoned ship. The tanker ‘Hawaiian King’ was the first of a number of ships that answered Achille Lauro’s SOS.

The Panamanian registered ‘Hawaiian King’ rescued most of the passengers. Sadly, two souls died, and eight were injured during the transfer of passengers from life rafts onto the tanker. As night fell, survivors were recovering onboard the ‘Hawaiian King.’ The US Navy cruiser Gettysburg. which by now had been stocked with much needed food. The fire raged for three days, and the Achille Lauro was declared a total loss. “The Achille Lauro is listing by at least 40 degrees, and you can still see smoke and flames, the passenger decks on the stern side are burning, and flames are licking halfway up the vessel,” said the tanker’s captain, Dimitrios Skapinakis. Achille Lauro sank on December 2.


The tragic fire ended the distinguished career of this fine ship


The BBC reported on the Achille Lauro fire. It may be viewed by clicking the link shown below. You will need RealPlayer to view it.


MS Willem Ruys / Achille Lauro INDEX:

MS Willem Ruys:       Part One

Photo Page One:         First Class

Photo Page Two:        Tourist Class

Achille Lauro:              Part Two

Achille Lauro:             SOS



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