MV SAVARONA at Istinye, Turkey. Photo and copyright Peter Knego 2009.
On September 30, 2010, the famed yacht SAVARONA was seized by the Turkish state, two days after a raid and charges that long term charterer Sadikoglu had leased the ship to Tevfik Arik, a Kazakh businessman, who in turn was using the vessel as a floating brothel for Russian and Ukrainian prostitutes. According to the Los Angeles Times, ten suspects, including Arik, now face human smuggling and prostitution charges and have been ordered to not leave Turkey until a trial is held on 18 February.
The twin funneled 4,646 gt SAVARONA was designed by Gibbs and Cox and built by Blohm and Voss in 1931 for heiress Emily Cadwallader, granddaughter of John Roebling, who built the Brooklyn Bridge. For decades, she was the largest yacht in the world and remains one of the longest, at 446 feet (including bowsprit). In 1938, she was bought by the Turkish state for ailing leader Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, who only used the ship for a few weeks before his death. After that, she remained laid up in the Bosphorus until being converted into the training ship GUNES DIL in 1951. In 1979, she was ravaged by fire and left in situ for a decade in the Sea of Marmara until being rebuilt into a deluxe yacht with accommodations for 34 guests. Sadikogllu spent $25 million re engining and rebuilding the gutted ship and leased her for 49 years, charging upwards of $50,000 per day to wealthy charterers to help recoup an annual maintenance tab of $3 million. A suite on board is dedicated to Ataturk and fitted with some of his original artifacts, although the only surviving original feature is a spiral staircase with gold-plated banister. SAVARONA has a cinema, lavish public rooms, a Turkish bath and a pool.
The ship, which was seized according to a clause in the charter contract that calls for annulment if used for any purpose “inappropriate with the nation’s heritage or contrary to the traditional habits and customs (of Turkey)”, may be opened up in the future as a maritime museum.