|A painting as the Willem Ruys by Victor Trip (1913-1975)|
|This postcard also shows the route of the Royal Rotterdam Lloyd line|
|As the Achille Lauro in Fremantle, 1991|
Ordered in 1938 to replace the aging ships on the Dutch East Indies route, her keel was laid in 1939 at De Schelde shipyard in Vlissingen, Netherlands, for Rotterdamsche Lloyd (now Nedlloyd). Interrupted by World War II and two bombing raids, the ship was not launched until July 1946 as the Willem Ruys, named after the grandson of the founder of the Rotterdamsche Lloyd who was taken hostage and shot during the war. Willem Ruys was completed in late 1947. At that time, the Rotterdamsche Lloyd had been granted a royal prefix in honor of its services during the war. Willem Ruys was 192 metres (630 ft) in length, 25 metres (82 ft) in beam, had a draught of 8.9 metres (29.2 ft), and measured 21,119 gross register tons. Eight Sulzer engines drove two propellers. She could accommodate 900 passengers. She featured a superstructure very different to other liners of that era: Willem Ruys pioneered low-slung aluminium lifeboats, within the upper-works’ flanks. The next ship to adopt this unique arrangement was the SS Canberra in 1961. Today, all cruise ships follow this layout.
In 1964 she was sold to the Flotta Lauro Line, or Star Lauro, (now MSC Cruises) and renamed the Achille Lauro (after the company owner). Extensively rebuilt and modernized after an August 1965 onboard explosion, the Achille Lauro entered service in 1966 carrying passengers to Sydney, Australia. The ship played a role in evacuating the families of British servicemen caught up in the Six Day War, arriving in Cairo on 1 June 1967.
The Achille Lauro was converted to a cruise ship in early 1972, during which time she suffered a disastrous fire. A 1975 collision with the cargo ship Youseff resulted in the sinking of the latter, and another onboard fire in 1981 took her out of service for a time. She was laid up in Tenerife when the Lauro Lines went bankrupt in 1982. The Chandris Line took possession of her in 1985, shortly before the hijacking.
On 7 October 1985, four men representing the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) took control of the liner off Egypt as she was sailing from Alexandria to Port Said. The hijackers were surprised by a crew member and acted prematurely. Holding the passengers and crew hostage, they directed the vessel to sail to Tartus, Syria, and demanded the release of 50 Palestinians then in Israeli prisons. After being refused permission to dock at Tartus, the hijackers killed disabled Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer and then threw his body overboard. The ship headed back towards Port Said, and after two days of negotiations, the hijackers agreed to abandon the liner in exchange for safe conduct and were flown towards Tunisia aboard an Egyptian commercial airliner.
US President Ronald Reagan ordered that the plane be intercepted by F-14 Tomcats from the VF-74 "BeDevilers" and the VF-103 "Sluggers" of Carrier Air Wing 17, based on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, on 10 October and directed to land at Naval Air Station Sigonella, a NATO base in Sicily, where the hijackers were arrested by the Italians after a disagreement between American and Italian authorities. The other passengers on the plane (including the hijackers' leader, Abu Abbas) were allowed to continue on to their destination, despite protests by the United States. Egypt demanded an apology from the US for forcing the airplane off course.
The ship continued in service; she was reflagged in 1987 when the Lauro Line was taken over by the Mediterranean Shipping Company to become StarLauro. On 30 November 1994, she caught fire off the coast of Somalia while enroute to South Africa. At that time, the cause of the fire was suggested by Italian officials to be a discarded cigarette. The crew attempted to battle the fire for several hours but were unsuccessful. Abandoned, the vessel sank on 2 December.
(Info from wikipedia.)