Daily Event for November 30

Built for Royal Rotterdam Lloyd of the Netherlands, she was laid down as the Willem Ruys in 1939, however construction was halted by the outbreak of WW2. During the war she was bombed by the Germans, sabotaged by the Dutch, bombed by the British and finally the Germans attempted to scuttle her. After the war construction continued, and on July 1, 1946 she was launched at Vlrssinger, Netherlands. She was not completed until Nov. 1947 and began her maiden voyage on Dec. 2,1947 (Rotterdam to Indonesia). This was the route she was designed for, but after Indonesia gained it's independence in 1949, passenger travel on that route declined. The Willem Ruys was put on the New York route and later the New Zealand route. In 1953 she collided with one of her chief rivals, the Oranje.

In January 1965 the liner was sold to the Lauro Line and renamed Achille Lauro. While she was being refitted in Palermo a fire broke out and delayed her return to service until mid 1966. She sailed without much fanfare until May of 1972 when in Genoa another fire broke out. This time she was laid up for six months. On Apr.28, 1975 while traveling through the Dardanelles Straits she ran down a fishing boat named Youssef, killing several on board.

It was Oct.7, 1985 that brought infamy to the liner. While in port at Alexandria, Egypt the Achille Lauro was boarded by four Palestinian terrorists. Lead by Abu Abbas, they took over the ship. They executed Leon Klinghoffer, an American-Jew, and had him and his wheelchair thrown overboard. The Egyptian authorities agreed to allow them to sail to Port Said. After two days of negotiations the terrorists agreed to leave the ship in exchange for safe passage to Tunisia on an Egyptian airliner.

The plane was intercepted by aircraft of the U.S. Navy and forced down in Sicily. The terrorists were finally arrested by the Italians. However, Abbas managed to elude capture. The other three terrorists were convicted and sent to prison. Abass was convicted in absentia but was captured in Iraq in 2003 by U.S. troops. He died in custody on March 9, 2004.

The Achille Lauro continued service until Nov.30, 1994 when she caught fire once again off the coast of Somalia. Four people were killed in the fire, but 1,087 people were saved. The liner burned for three days and finally sank on Dec. 3. 1994.

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock

Achille Lauro