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San Of Aliaga

Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 by

Peter Knego makes his first pilgrimage to the Turkish scrapyards of Aliaga with local legend Selim San.  Among the ships spotted are the former NCL cruise ship SOUTHWARD…

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: Peter Knego’s brand new DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2013 unless otherwise noted.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Located in a crescent-shaped bay some 60 kilometers north of Izmir, Aliaga (pronounced “Aliag”) is an incongruous fusion of holiday spot and industrial center, home to beach houses and seafood restaurants as well as huge oil refineries, steel plants, and, feeding the latter, a busy scrapyard. Shipbreaking began at Aliaga in the early 1970s and through its portals vanished classics like Turkish Maritime Line’s ANKARA (ex IROQUOIS), KARADENIZ and ISKENDERUN; Chandris Line’s REGINA PRIMA (ex ANCON); Typaldos’ ATHINAI (ex SANTA ROSA); Epirotiki’s burnt-out PALLAS ATHENA (ex FLANDRE) and PEGASUS; STEFAN (ex MAASDAM, STEFAN BATORY); ALICE (ex CITY OF EXETER, MEDITERRANEAN SEA) and even the Great Lakes streamline ferry AQUARAMA, to name just a few. Hundreds of ferries, ro/ros, tankers, bulk carriers, lakers, coasters and tugboats have also been recycled on its pebble-strewn beach.

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On the road to Aliaga.

There was no more appropriate way to make my first pilgrimage to a place I had only seen in photos than with the man who took those dramatic images. Izmir-based Selim San has visited Aliaga once a week, almost without exception, for decades. The 60-year old has a childlike fancy for ships of all shapes and size, especially classic liners, tugs and tankers.

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MSC DIVINA arriving at Aliaga on April 2, 2013. Photo and copyright Selim San.

San, who also photographs working ships (including the one that brought me to Izmir that morning, the MSC DIVINA), lives in an apartment overlooking Izmir Bay. His dramatic images are regularly posted at Shipspotting.com and on a number of European websites as well as being voraciously shared by Facebook and Twitter fans.

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Selim San.

Gesturing between turns and indicating occasional points of interest, he cautioned that our visit could get complicated as several shipbreakers were feuding. But then he laughed that others may welcome us just to spite the ones who did not want us in their realm. “We will know…when we get there!

As a soundtrack of 1980s pop and electronic music chimed on and the rolling greenery and rocky outcrops of the Turkish coastline unfolded before us, we exchanged ship-related stories. Much has transpired since our only prior meeting in 1998 while I was visiting Kusadasi aboard then-Orient Line’s MARCO POLO.

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Aliaga approach:  “Welcome to the ship recycling yards.”

We turned off the main highway (which goes as far as Canakkale in the Dardanelles) and drove past a pair of huge oil refineries. Lifeboats, skiffs and machinery carefully gathered along the road portended what lay ahead. Anticipating heavy security, I began to stow my cameras, but Selim assured me that was not necessary. We did not need permits to take photos — our mission was at the mercy of the individual shipbreakers and not a bureaucratic maritime board with a police force. If one breaker told us no, the one next door could tell us yes, so with dozens of yards to choose from, some degree of success was assured in the hours that lay ahead.

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Aliaga overview.

As soon as we reached the promontory overlooking Aliaga, I was startled to see an unexpected but very familiar vessel. The sleek, still sparkling 1971-built VENUS lay with a sharp starboard list among a motley collection of coasters, tankers, trawlers and navy ships. With previously announced plans for her return to summer cruise service on a Turkish charter, it was shocking to see that elegant Knud E. Hansen-designed form awaiting the cutting torch. VENUS was originally NCL’s pioneering SOUTHWARD, a handsome 17,000 gt Italian-built vessel that went on to second and tertiary careers as Airtours SEAWING and Louis Cruises PERLA. For me, it was especially sobering that a ship that was so much on the cutting wave of cruising when I first became interested in in the subject was now at the end of her career. I had taken her familiar profile for granted in a number of places over the years, from Los Angeles to Piraeus, Limassol and Istanbul.

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San of Aliaga.

My original intent in visiting Aliaga was to see the PACIFIC, the famed “Love Boat” PACIFIC PRINCESS, which after an unfinished and botched refit, was laying at a shipyard in Genoa and reportedly sold for scrap. Two Aliaga-based breakers had laid claim to the ship but both were unable to complete their purchase and the PACIFIC was still in Genoa tied up in red tape at the time this report was published in mid-May. Instead, her onetime competitor, the equally sleek VENUS, had taken her place.

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Selim shoots.

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Right next to VENUS were the final bits of keel of the 1969-built COSTA ALLEGRA (ex AXEL JOHNSON), which was converted from a container ship into a Costa Line cruise ship in 1992. After an otherwise successful career, the ALLEGRA made headlines for breaking down in the Indian Ocean in February 2012.  Eventually towed back to Italy, the disgraced ship was stripped and sold for scrapping in September, arriving at Aliaga on October 24 under the name SANTA CRUISE. A pile of her debris filled a nearby plot, waiting to be recycled and the battered steel and glass dome that once towered over her atrium was lying next to her tortured keel.

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Ukrainian barracks ship.

Other interesting ships were the 1964-built ferry AZZURA (ex GRENAA, KALLE, OLAU WEST, CORSICA MARINA, etc), one of many similar Scandinavian ferries topped with domed funnel-like superstructures and twin uptakes that would ultimately morph into an entire generation of cruise ships, including the nearby VENUS/SOUTHWARD.  Mimicking a passenger ship of sorts, an engineless Ukrainian barracks ship that once housed submarine crews had also just arrived.

Throughout the day, workers cheerfully but curiously greeted Selim, who usually came to Aliaga on Wednesdays but who made an exception to accommodate my one and only Tuesday visit.

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Rescued panels and Selim’s scrapbook.

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Not For Sale:  CITY OF EXETER chairs and more…

As the morning progressed, we visited several offices where the breakers proudly showed off impressive collections of navigation equipment, builder’s plates and even artwork from ships they demolished. In one, I recognized chairs from the onetime Ellerman liner CITY OF EXETER, which ended her days at Aliaga under the name ALICE in 1998.

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Our attempt to get up-close footage of the AZZURRA was curtailed due to a nearby winching operation. We watched from behind a dismembered bulbous bow as giant spools of machinery puffed clouds of diesel and taut cables strained to drag a half demolished ro/ro ship closer up the embankment.

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Coaster on the coast.

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Workers delivered to VENUS.

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Straining against the chains.

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VENUS on the heap.

Our next stop yielded more success as we walked to the water’s edge under the port bow of the VENUS. Above us, a crane hoisted workers onto the ship’s fo’c’sle to begin removing fittings. Although Selim assured we’d get even closer later in the afternoon when the sunlight was on the starboard side, we both took plenty of footage, just in case…

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Mr. Ozer in his Aliaga office.

In one office, we were made to feel especially welcome. As we sipped potent Turkish coffee, I noticed Selim’s photos of the lovely old ATHINAI and HELLAS on the wall. Our host, Mr. Ozer, was one of Aliaga’s first generation of breakers and these two historic former liners were among the ships he recycled.

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TITANIC on the beach.

The ATHINAI was designed by William Francis Gibbs as the SANTA ROSA, the first in a quartet of luxurious ships commissioned for Grace Line. The 1932-built ship was the first to sport Gibbs’ trademark SAMPAN funnel (just the forward one) which were fitted to a number of liners that would follow, including the AMERICA, UNITED STATES and the SANTA ROSA of 1958. She became Typaldos Line’s ATHINAI in 1958 and was laid up near Piraeus 1968 when that company folded. ATHINAI was renamed TITANIC to serve as a set for the 1980 film Raise The Titanic before returning to layup and ultimately being sold for scrap.

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SANTA ROSA dresser.

Mr. Ozer shared that when the erstwhile TITANIC arrived at his yard in 1989, her public rooms were battered and covered in green foam to make them appear as though they were under water for decades.

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Mr. Ozer signs his book.

However, some of the former suites were still intact and he was able to salvage a number of walnut dressers, including one that was directly to my left. Before we left, Mr. Ozer presented me with an autographed copy of his book on shipbreaking.

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Bridge equipment entry.

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SOUTHWARD art panel.

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San shots.

At another office, there was a gold colored panel that had just been removed from the VENUS. Like other artifacts in the room, it was not for sale. I photographed a wall full of photos Selim took of ships that were demolished at that same plot. Moments later, Selim told me the breaker, who maintained a very calm demeanor, wanted us to stop taking photos and “get out”.

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Full Frontal VENUS.

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Lon Chaney scrap.

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Aliaga close-up.

The neighboring breaker, who lost a fortune on his deposit for PACIFIC a year before, welcomed us warmly and encouraged us to take photos of his nemesis‘ ship, the very same VENUS, now bathed in the dramatic afternoon light.

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Funnel office.

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Merchant of Aliaga.

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Telegraphs on sale.

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Maritime merchandise.

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Roro bridge rebuilt.

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Roro bridge, facing starboard.

We left the breaker’s beach and headed back to the main highway to visit several dealers of shipboard furnishing and equipment. Unlike the roadside marketplace in Alang with its hundreds of lots filled with fittings, Aliaga has just a few dealers. I didn’t find much of interest but was impressed with one friendly dealer who salvaged the wheelhouse from a ro/ro ship and reassembled it with all equipment, including a still functioning Furuno radar, intact.

It was a fascinating day and I felt privileged to have finally witnessed Aliaga with Selim. There was much to compare and contrast with the larger, far more challenging Alang, which I have visited on eight occasions.

THE SANDS OF ALANG: Peter Knego’s brand new DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

Aliaga Aftermath: Two days after our visit, the ANTIC, which was built as Sitmar Cruises FAIRSKY in 1984, was beached at Aliaga. Selim returned on several subsequent Wednesdays and shared some images for this report.

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SS ANTIC (ex FAIRSKY, SKY PRINCESS, PACIFIC SKY, etc.) at Aliaga on May 1, 2013.

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AZZURRA at Aliaga on May 1, 2013. Photo by and copyright Selim San.

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VENUS in the process of demolition on May 8, 2013. Photo and copyright Selim San.

Very special thanks: Martin Cox, Selim San

27 Responses to San Of Aliaga

  1. Frederic Guisset

    May 16, 2013 at 3:02 am

    Thank you very much M. Peter Knego for the reportage in the scrapyards. Very interesting

  2. Søren Lund Hviid

    May 16, 2013 at 5:37 am

    Tremendously interesting reading and photos. Selim Sans photos have always fascinated me!

  3. Jeff Macklin

    May 16, 2013 at 5:55 am

    Hey Peter:

    Fantastic report. Like you, finding the SOUTHWARD on the beach was a shock to me, as being from Miami, I remember the days when she and her sisters were the most modern ships sailing the Caribbean. Hope many items from her will be saved.
    Jeff Macklin

  4. Glenn Paull

    May 16, 2013 at 6:23 am

    Great reading and pics – Mr. Gibbs was a master at his craft, I hope he lived long enough to realize his SAMPAN funnels were so admired for their sheer beauty and how they added so much to the lines of the ship they adorned.

  5. Kenenth Eden

    May 16, 2013 at 7:53 am


    Having pictures of the ships is one thing, something that always gnaws at the ship lovers heart, and providing the pics and info for Mr. Ozer and Mr. Selim Sans helps to bring a sort of “stewardship” for some, a sort of kindness for an ugly task.

    I just can not fathom or want to even begin to understand why such a “contemporary” ship, the FAIRSKY, has gone already and perhaps too soon to the scrappers. Ships from her very day are still around, and are seemingly well cared for. It just makes so little sense.

  6. Terry McKenna

    May 16, 2013 at 9:17 am

    The Fairsky has been headed to the breakers for years. She unfortunately has been plagued with engine faults going back 10 years to when she was based in Sydney. Also being steam turbine dissuaded many potential operators as she was too fuel hungry.

  7. Kenenth Eden

    May 16, 2013 at 10:21 am

    FAIRSKY and her history are well known and documented

    Still, having sailed for years with new owners and names, one can only wonder

  8. Mage B

    May 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    What an adventure. Thanks so much for posting this.

  9. Andreas Wahl

    May 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this great report and documentation. What a shame to see Fairsky and Southward resting on the beach. It is so disturbing to see such a glistening white vessel within a mass of scrap metal, dirt an dust.

  10. CarrotCakeMan

    May 17, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    My husband and I sailed r/t San Francisco to Alaska aboard “Sky Princess” in June 2000. I believe she was the last steam turbine ship built. Steam meant her swimming pools were heated to 96F, so we could swim while in Alaska, which is where we met other friendly passengers. She needed to have her dining rooms fixed up then, but the service was charming and personal. We enjoyed finding the vents on the open top vent where we smelled the bleach from the laundry on one side and yeasty baking bread on the other. The elegant way she moved through Alaska’s Inside passage made me think of something Franklin Roosevelt wrote about “Mauretania,” that she behaved herself as a great lady. When we visited a glacier, passengers gathered on the top open deck instead of being isolated in so many veranda cabins. We loved walking her open decks after dinner. Thank you for documenting her final days.

  11. Hank

    May 20, 2013 at 9:51 am

    City of York? Did they save furniture from the City of New York before it capsized as Mediterranean Sky in Greece?

  12. Peter Knego

    May 20, 2013 at 11:09 am

    If I wrote YORK, meant EXETER, Hank. I’ll correct…

    Thank you,

    Peter :)

  13. Freddie Melvin

    May 21, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    I really didn’t see any of the workers in your photos Peter, but the whole operation in Turkey seems to be up to Modern Standards of Ship-breaking. I would be curious to get you take on that. Once again a masterful job of reporting.

  14. Hank

    May 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    It is kind of weird to see SOUTHWARD and FAIRSKY on a beach.

  15. Hank

    May 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Oh, no problem Peter! :)

  16. harold williams

    May 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    You have done a wonderful job at documentation of the Southward. It was on of the first journeys I took on NCL to Ocho Rios. She seemed to be a special kind of ship that inspired newer innovations.
    It is like loosing a dear old friend to see her being taken apart.

  17. michael siegle

    May 24, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    A very intresting overview of what happens to our dear old friends!! 10years at sea ..the best years of my life!!

  18. francesco

    May 24, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    Well done!

    Pacif is still here in Genoa and we are guiessing about her final destination

  19. francesco

    May 24, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    well done !
    Pacifi is still here in Genova today 25 may-

  20. Mick Axford

    May 29, 2013 at 4:04 am

    Peter.thankyou for your report so interesting.Having met Selim San on a Thames Ship Society trip to Turkey in the early 1980s it was so nice to see loking so well.Many thanks again.Regards Mick A.

  21. steve hale

    June 5, 2013 at 9:18 am

    hi does anyone have selim sans a mail address please

  22. Ralph Dazert

    June 14, 2013 at 1:31 am

    What a great report Peter, I had totally overlooked it! Is there any chance that Selim San will ever publish a book with his pictures? I would be the first to order it!

  23. Caren Logan

    August 3, 2013 at 1:46 am

    Sailed on the Southward in mid-seventies rt Singapore to Penang. Wonderful memories especially of the gracious dining with interesting table mates. One British gentleman so resembled Rex Harrison – tanned, in his white dinner jacket. Though difficult to see, thanks for sharing the photos and information about the Southward’s last cruise.

  24. steve

    October 9, 2013 at 11:11 am

    I have been looking for a contact at aliga ship recyling facility to link up with to do me some photos

  25. abdus samad

    October 29, 2013 at 6:29 am

    dear sir i want to visit aliaga ship breakinhg yard n needs a helper i interested in buying marine items pls mail me the details

  26. Vincenzo Magno

    January 24, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Greetings from Boston! I like to know if there will be any items for sale on from The Love Boat.I appreciate your help.Thank you! Vincenzo

  27. William Shaw-yates

    May 11, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Shocked to see your photos of my old boat as I knew as the Seawing.Joined as a waiter in 1995 till April 1996.Had a great time on this friendly ship.Allways remember these times fondly as I was in my early 20s.We all loved the crew bar at the stern of the ship.Thanks for sharing these great photos.

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