Olympia Countess sold

Jan 29, 2004
Author: P&S


Today’s auction of the former Royal Olympic Cruise ship Olympia Countess produced a buyer but as yet no certainty of a sale.

With only three bidders taking part, of whom only two were really serious enough to bid beyond the scrap value, it was soon apparent that a price close to the appraised value of USD12 million would be unlikely, and so it proved. The 28-year old ship was knocked down for USD 6.1 million plus the cost of the bunkers on board – another USD 60,122 worth, to Majestic International Cruises of Greece.

Mr Zalacosta signing the sale agreement.
Successful bidder was Mr Costa Zalocosta, who remained reticent about where his company’s latest acquisition would be placed, but considering some of Majestic’s existing operations with Ocean Monarchy and Ocean Majesty, might one guess that destination to be the UK and Scandinavia, where as a former Cunard ship (Cunard Countess) she might go down well among many of the British cruising market?

Because of the low interest in the sale the possibility exists that the courts may decide to reopen the sale, with other bidders having a second opportunity to improve the price awarded. In that event Majestic would have the final option of exceeding the highest bid. Alternately the court may order that a new auction take place, probably within a fortnight.

In terms of South African law practice the courts have five working days in which to approve any judicial sale as being in the best interests of all concerned parties.

According to several legal representatives attending today’s sale, the amount raised (USD 6/1M) is sufficient to meet all immediate claims against the ship save those held by the mortgage banks. This includes the amount owed to crew who have remained unpaid for a number of months. On these grounds the court may decide the sale was fair and acceptable.

The second and unsuccessful bidder was Kyma Ship Management, who withdrew when the price reached USD 6M.

Majestic International is little known in South Africa and operates several elderly ships, each prefixed with Ocean – Ocean Majesty and Ocean Monarch but perhaps the most interesting is the real old lady of the trio - Ocean Explorer 1, which according to Mr Zalocosta is operated by Majestic as well.

Ocean Explorer 1 was laid down originally as a troop transport (General RM Blatchford) although she entered service in 1944 as General WP Richardson.

Later transformations saw her becoming the twin funnel passenger ship LaGuardia in 1949 and later acquiring the much more delightful name of Leilani. In 1960 she underwent rebuilding as the President Roosevelt as part of American President Lines, with whom she remained in service until 1970 when Chandris took her over as the Atlantis.

Within two years the ship was to have another owner and yet another name - Emerald Seas, in which guise she was to remain for another 20 years until 1992 when Festival Cruises took her over as the Sapphire Seas for cruise operations out of Cyprus to Egypt and Israel. This proved moderately successful and by 1994 the ship was laid up.

By the way, there is no connection to an ill-founded attempt to launch a timeshare operation in South Africa in 1996 with a ship named Emerald Seas – which involved the former Kenya Castle.

In 1998 the venerable ship became Ocean Explorer 1, serving first as a floating hotel in Lisbon and subsequently a series of world cruises. (Acknowledgement to Maritime Matters for Ocean Explorer 1 information)


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