With Reuben Goossens
ship too toxic for scrapping”
“Chic ship too toxic for scrapping”
By Justin Huggler
By Justin Huggler
Save a Classic Liner Campaign”
For details and the latest news regarding project “Save the SS France – SS Norway - visit News Updates
interesting article is by independent journalist, Justin Huggler
and it was printed in the
Somewhere in the
But this is not just another sad rusting hulk of a cargo ship. Even in its forlorn state, her long sleek lines mark it out as a ship of an altogether different class.
And, to a shipping enthusiast, the distinctive winged funnels are instantly recognisable. This is the SS France, one of the last of the great ocean-going liners.
The decks that were once the haunt of Cary Grant and Salvador Dali lie empty. The restaurant that was described as the best French restaurant in the world has been left to the echoes and the memories. This is the final voyage of the ship that was once the epitome of glamour and nautical prestige.
Its destination is very different from the gala
receptions that once greeted it in
The ship is heading for the great ship-breaking yards of Alang in India, a place of Victorian squalor, where hundreds of Indian workers will swarm over it, breaking it up piece by piece, tearing out the grand sweeping staircase that led down to the restaurant, ripping up the longest bar built on a ship, and finally cutting through its hull with oxyacetylene burners. All for just US$1.89 a day.
On its final voyage, SS France is sailing into the middle of controversy over the dangers of ship-breaking in developing countries.
Greenpeace is demanding the ship be turned away from Alang because it is full of poisonous asbestos and the shipyards there do not have the facilities to handle asbestos safely.
It says handling the asbestos and other toxic
waste on the
It was very different back in the early 60s,
Cary Grant used to lounge on the
When the Louvre lent Leonardo da Vinci's
painting to an exhibition in the
Although Dali's ocelot was probably the most recherché pet to come on
board, it was not the only one. The
The on-board kennels were carpeted. There was a walkway for exercising
the animals, and a choice of a Parisian milestone or a
The restaurant was famously described by a well-known gourmet of the times, Craig Claibourne, as "the greatest French restaurant in the world". Passengers could order any dish they wanted, and the chefs would immediately rustle it up - or so the story goes.
No wood was allowed on the
In its heyday it could cruise at 31 knots, all 66,348 tonnes of it.
Today the France, or the SS Blue Lady as it has been renamed, is heading into a very different world. The beach at Alang stretches for 9.6km, a great expanse of desolate oil-stained sand littered with the vast skeletons of ships that are being dismembered, picked over by thousands of Indians.
Alang has been compared to the notorious ship-building yards of Victorian England, where workers toiled in grisly conditions.
It has 40,000 workers and few safety regulations. Most work barefoot, despite the constant risk from the heavy steel plates being cut. Many have lost limbs, many have been killed. One in 20 workers at Alang has Aids.
Cheap labour and lax safety regulations have allowed
But now the industry is increasingly at risk from environmentalists who
are demanding that it adopts better safety regulations. In a major victory for
the eco-lobby this year, the French Government was forced to recall the
Clemenceau, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that was heading for Alang,
because it was carrying asbestos. Now Greenpeace is demanding that
And so it built the 315m (1035ft)
It went on a world cruise - and had to sail around South America
because it was too big for the
In September that year, French trade unionists seized control of the
France as it came into dock after crossing the Atlantic to demand that it was
kept in service. The 1266 passengers on board had to flee to shore on a small
ferry. The hijacking failed, and the
For three years the ship lay idle in harbour. In 1977, it was bought by a Saudi millionaire who wanted to turn it into a floating museum for French furniture, but the plan never got off the drawing board. Finally, in 1979, it was bought by Norwegian Caribbean Lines, one of the biggest companies tapping into the huge new market for a different kind of luxury shipping: cruises.
It continued to sail through the 80s and 90s but, by the beginning of
this decade, maintenance cuts meant the
There were incidents of illegal dumping of waste at sea, and at one point the ship was detained at port for safety violations.
Worse was to come. In May 2003, while the
But in March 2004 the chief executive of the cruise company made the
inevitable announcement: "
The ship was sent to
But the ship's story is far from over. It was supposed to be going to
the ship-breaking yards at
Greenpeace campaigned vociferously this year against the Clemenceau
being allowed in. Eventually
But even as environmentalists campaign to keep it out, they are facing a backlash from the ship-breaking yards, who say a ban risks destroying their business and thousands of jobs.
There is a growing movement in
But with the decontamination creating renewed business for the
There are growing calls in
And so the last hope to preserve the SS France may hinge on its being turned away from an Indian ship breaking yard because it is full of toxic waste. Or someone may come up with US$24 million and buy it.
Page One … SS France
Page Two … SS Norway
Page Three … SS Norway – Blue Lady
Page Four …
Photo … QE2
Photo … Photographer Don Tremain presents his experience and four photographs
Photo … A series of photographs of SS Blue Lady in Alang
Article … “Surreal times on the SS France” by Patrick Jackson
Article … “Chic ship too toxic for scrapping” by Justin Huggler
Dubai … Save
the “SS France,
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