One of the passenger ships that used to call at Valletta during the nineties was the Spanish owned DON JUAN homeported at Panama (PAN).
She was built in 1967 by Union Naval Valencia SA (UNV) at Valencia in Spain as Yard 94. Her launch took place on September 29th, 1966, and on July 24th, 1967 she was handed over to the Trasmediterránea Company as the LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA as ferry with 500 passenger capacity with 100 cars and for cargo, a 600 cubic meter warehouse, and a refrigerated warehouse of 200 cubic meters. Early February 1984 , the top management announced the sale of the vessel.
In 1985, the Trasmediterránea Company decided to withdraw the four twins: three were sold to Greek shipowners to continue sailing as ferries, while the ferry LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA was sold to a consortium between Unión Naval de Levante, Marflet and Trasmediterránea itself, to be rebuilt as a cruise ship.
The ship arrived on January 14th 1986 at the shipyard, where she was originally built to be converted into a cruise ship. A month later 14th February she was discharged from the Trasmediterránea fleet, after signing the deed of sale to the joint ownership. The delivery of the ship was made on March 11th 1986.
After almost three years of work, in 1988 she was delivered as CROWN DEL MAR for the Panamanian company Crown Cruise Lines, forming part of a consortium made up of Compañía Trasmediterránea, Unión Naval de Levante and MARFLET, contributing each of companies 33.3% of share capital. The ship was chartered for eleven years to a US operator on bareboat basis and was incorporated into the tourist itineraries of the Caribbean and South of the USA. On November 11th 1988 the first cruise from Palm Beach started. In December 1990, and as a consequence of the termination of the charter contract, the ship was repatriated, which arrived in Barcelona on January 3, 1991 and was then pending charter or sale. Meanwhile in 1994 the ship was sold and was laid up
A subsidiary company of TRASMEDITERRANEA was created, named ROYAL HISPANIA CRUCEROS.
Renamed D.JUAN in honor of the figure of HRH Don Juan de Borbón, count of Barcelona, the ship was delivered on June 30th 1994 and the following July 1st began her first cruise. The area of operations focused on the Western Mediterranean and in the winter season of 1998 and in 1999 cruises were made through the Atlantic, using Malaga as a home port scheduled for the Mediterranean, departing each week from the ports of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca towards Tunisia, Malta, Sicily, Naples, Civitavecchia, Livorno and Nice. In January 2000 the ship as DON JUAN was for sale again and on 16th March she was delivered to new owners and renamed RIVIERA I.
Her end came on the 29th June 2005 where she suffered a fire at the Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung and as a consequence of the water pumped by the firefighters she listed heavily and partly sank on her starboard side. To prevent the spill of the 200 tons of fuel on board, the authorities ordered a floating barrier to be placed around the ship. The 211 crew members were evacuated without suffering any damage. However, 141 were Chinese from the mainland and were housed under surveillance before being repatriated the first time.
On July 14th it was announced that the Kaohsiung Harbour Bureau had awarded the American rescue firm Titan Maritime the cleanup of the spill from the ship that at that time she was the ROYAL PACIFIC and first priority was to clean some of the fuel tanks and once the fuel was drained the removal of the ship wreck was contracted by the P + I club to the Dutch company SMIT Salvage, which moved a work team and the SMIT CYCLONE with a lifting capacity of 1,000t. The operations were carried out in close collaboration with the local port authorities and the Taiwan environmental organisation. The ship was cut into nine sections, in order to enable the hoisting of these sections and facilitate their transportation to a local scrapping factory. The hoisting of the first section, weighing 850 t, began on September 7th and the last of the sections was loaded in the barge on November 11, 2005, thus ending the port cleaning operation. from Kaohsiung.
DON JUAN schedule port calls in Malta were represented by SMS Shipping – www.sms.com.mt
Photos by Capt. Lawrence Dalli. Do not use these images without my permission. © All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos – www.maltashipphotos.com
Published – Sunday 5th April, 2020