SS Norway - Final Chapter

“Norway will never sail again" it was announced on March 23rd 2004, by NCL Chief Executive Colin Veitch. The ship's ownership was transferred to NCL's parent company, Star Cruises.

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Screendump of the front page of The Miami Herald dated June 28th 2003 shows an image of the Grand Dame of the Caribbean on her final departure - under tow - from Miami.†

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A reader-submitted photo of unknown origin showing the SS Norway on her final departure from Miami, under tow to Europe. †


Due to large amounts of asbestos aboard the ship (mostly in machine spaces and in all bulkheads), the Norway was not allowed to leave Germany for any scrap yards due to the Basel Convention. However, after assuring the German authorities that Norway would go to Asia for repairs and further see operation in Australia, she was allowed to leave port under tow. It was reported that the art from her two dining rooms, children's playroom, stair tower, and library were removed and placed in storage, to possibly be utilized on board a revitalized SS United States, or another ship in the NCL fleet. However, later photos of the ship at the scrapyards of Alang, India, would prove this statement to be untrue.†


The Norway left Bremerhaven under tow on 23 May 2005, and reached Port Kelang in Malaysia, on 10 August 2005.


In fact, the ship was sold to an American naval demolition dealer for scrap value in December 2005. After eventually reselling the ship to a scrap yard, the ship was to be towed to India for demolition. However, in light of protests from Greenpeace, potentially lengthy legal battles due to environmental concerns over the ship's breakup, and amidst charges of fraudulent declarations made by the company to obtain permission to leave Bremerhaven, her owners cancelled the sale contract, refunded the purchase price, and left the ship where she was.


The SS Norway was sold in April 2006 to Bridgend Shipping Limited of Monrovia, Liberia, renamed SS Blue Lady in preparation for scrapping. One month later she was again sold, to Haryana Ship Demolition Pvt. Ltd., and was subsequently left anchored in waters off the Malaysian coast after the government of Bangladesh refused the Blue Lady entry into their waters due to the onboard asbestos. Three weeks later, the ship began its journey towards Indian waters, though it was announced that she had left Malaysian waters for the United Arab Emirates for repairs, and to take on new crew and supplies.


Upon learning of the ship's destination, Gopal Krishna, an environmentalist and an anti-asbestos activist, filed an application before the Supreme Court of India to ensure that the ship, reportedly containing asbestos, complied with the Court's 14th October 2003 order which sought prior decontamination of ships in the country of export before they could be allowed entry into Indian waters. On May 17th 2006, Kalraj Mishra expressed his concern to the Indian Parliament over possible hazards the Blue Lady presented, and requested that the government put a halt to the ship's entry. However, as the Indian Supreme Court had lifted any ban on the ship's entry, the Blue Lady was anchored 100 km off the Indian coast in mid-July, coming from Fujairah, UAE. This also cleared the way for her scrapping at Alang, in Gujarat, pending an inspection of the on-board asbestos by experts from the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB).


After GPCB chairman, K.V. Bhanujan, said the Board had constituted an experts' committee for inspection, Blue Lady was docked in Pipavav, Kutch District. On August 2nd 2006, after a five-day inspection, the experts declared the ship safe for beaching and dismantling in Alang. However, this prompted a fury of controversy over the legality of such an act, including a press release from the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking that critiqued the technical report, alleging that the Technical Committee was under undue pressure to allow the ship to be beached, and had failed to follow the Basel Convention and the Supreme Court of India's order that ships must be decontaminated of hazardous substances such as PCBs and asbestos, and, in any case, must be fully inventoried and formally notified prior to arrival in the importing country. No such notification was made by either Malaysia (last country of departure) nor Germany (country where the ship became waste). The NGO Platform on Shipbreaking also announced that it was prepared to launch a global campaign against Star Cruises and their subsidiary Norwegian Cruise Lines for corporate negligence in this case.


Photos from Alang revealed that Blue Lady was still partially afloat off the coast; her bow on dry beach at low tide, and the ship fully afloat at high tide. The photos also showed that neither NCL nor Star Cruises had removed any of the ship's on board furniture or artworks (including the murals in the Windward Dining Room and Children's Playroom, and the Steinway piano in Le Bistro), as had previously been reported. Fans of the France became concerned about the future of the art pieces, both due to the ship lying at anchor in a very humid environment without power for air conditioning, and due to lack of concern for preservation on the part of the scrappers. Still, it was stated that as of early September 2006, the ship's owner had signed contracts with various buyers, including auctioneers and a French museum, to sell the artworks. Other fittings were to be sold by the ton.


Gopal Krishna again moved an application seeking compliance with the Basel Convention, and three days later the Indian Supreme Court decided that the scrapping was to be postponed, stipulating that the Technical Committee, which earlier approved the scrapping, were to write a new report to be submitted before the Court's final decision. That decision was reached on September 11th 2007 (the 33rd anniversary of the SS France's last day on the Atlantic), when the court ruled that the Blue Lady was safe to scrap, a decision that was received negatively by ship aficionados and environmentalists alike. By December 4th of the same year, it was confirmed that the tip of the Blue Lady's bow had been cut; a ceremonial move done to most ships that end up in Alang just prior to the full scale breaking of a ship. It was confirmed on 20th January that the Blue Lady has commenced scrapping. Scrapping began on the forward part of the sun deck. The suites added during the 1990 refit were gone by March. By July 12th 2008 the bow and the stern of the ship had been removed, with little of the ship's famous profile still recognizable. By September of 2008, most of what remained above the waterline had been cut away, and the ship's destruction was essentially completed by late 2008.


In 2009 the tip of the bow of the France / Norway was returned to the country of her birth as one of a catalogue of auction pieces removed from the ship before scrapping commenced. The auction was held on February 8th and 9th 2009




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This page shall also serves as a memorial for those who lost their lives in the SS Norway fatal boiler explosion:†

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Ramil Bernal†

Stoker



Ricardo Rosal†

3 rd Engineer



Candido Valenzuela

Stoker



Rene Villanueva

Oiler



Mari John Bautista

1st Assistant Refrigeration Engineer



Ramon Villarais

Stoker



Rolando Tejero

Cook



Winston Lewis

Second Steward


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