OLA ESMERALDA as BLACK PRINCE in September 2009 at Kristiansand, Norway. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2009.
Controversy is brewing over the U.N.’s recent charter of the 1966-built OLA ESMERALDA (ex BLACK PRINCE) and the 2001-built SEA VOYAGER (ex CAPE MAY LIGHT) to house earthquake aid workers at Haiti. The charter, reportedly costing $112,500 per day, is stirring international interest and allegations that one of the vessels, the OLA ESMERALDA, reputedly has ties close to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The SEA VOYAGER, currently under Florida-based International Shipping Partners management, had been laid up since 2002 and was quickly reactivated, having undergone US Coast Guard trials off Jacksonville, FL before sailing off to Haiti. The OLA ESMERALDA was to have begun Venezuelan coastal cruising for her current owners, SAVECA (Servicios Acuaticos de Venezuela) after her sale by longtime owners, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, last October. The start up operation was hampered by challenges from environmental groups and the ship has been idle until the recent charter.