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ACHILLE LAURO The best Italian hospitality afloat

Date: c 1980
Overall: 840 x 1050 x 15 mm
Medium: Poster and printed text laminated onto plywood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Mediterranean Shipping Co (Aust) Pty Ltd
Classification:Posters and postcards
Object Name: Poster
Object No: 00049257

User Terms

    A framed and mounted poster of the renowned vessel the ACHILLE LAURO titled 'ACHILLE LAURO The best Italian hospitality afloat'.
    SignificanceThe ACHILLE LAURO had an eventful history for a passenger liner and cruise ship and was the subject of international attention in a 1985 hostage crisis on board. It was a familiar sight on the Europe-Australia cruise route. The poster represents the height of its luxury cruise period, just before it was hi-jacked.
    HistoryThe ACHILLE LAURO began life as the WILLELM RUYS. Ordered in 1938 to replace the aging ships on the Dutch East Indies route, the 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.

    The vessel had a chequered, infamous career. It started as a popular fixture on the Dutch East Indies route. However, when the East Indies gained independence from The Netherlands in 1949, passengers numbers decreased.

    On January 6, 1953, WILLELM RUYS collided in the Red Sea with running mate MS ORANJE, heading in the opposite direction. At that time, it was common that passenger ships pass each other at close range (1 to 1.5 nautical miles) to entertain their passengers. During the (later heavily criticized) abrupt and fast approach of Oranje, Willem Ruys made an unexpected swing to the left, resulting in a collision. It was a near-miss disaster. There was no loss of life involved.

    After repairs, Royal Rotterdam Lloyd decided to release the WILLELM RUYS on the North Atlantic run. First, she was placed on the New York service, and later Canada was included.

    Then, from September 20, 1958 until February 25, 1959, the vessel underwent a major facelift at the Wilton-Fijenoord shipyard in Amsterdam, turning from a passenger liner into a cruise ship.

    On March 7, 1959 the WILLELM RUYS began a new world service to Australia and New Zealand, sailing from Rotterdam, via Southampton, the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney, New Zealand, and returning via the Panama Canal. Along with other Royal Dutch Mail Ships JOHAN VAN OLDENBARNEVELT and ORANJE, the WILLELM RUYS became a popular alternative to the British liners.

    At the end of 1964, due to a strong drop in passenger numbers, it was laid up in Rotterdam and sold to the Flotta Lauro Line, or Star Lauro, (later MSC or Mediterranean Shipping Company Cruises) and renamed the ACHILLE LAURO (after the company owner). Extensively rebuilt and modernized after an August 1965 onboard explosion, it re-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 June 1, 1967.

    The vessel was converted to a cruise ship in early 1972, during which time it 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 it out of service for a time. It was laid up in Tenerife when the Lauro Lines went bankrupt in 1982.
    The Chandris Line took possession of the vessel in 1985. Soon after, on October 7, 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 had been 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.

    United States President Ronald Reagan ordered that the plane be intercepted by aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, and directed it to land at Naval Air Station Sigonella, a N.A.T.O. base in Sicily, where the hijackers were arrested by the Italians.

    Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi claimed Italian territorial rights over the NATO base. In what was a grave diplomatic crisis between Italy and United States, Italian Air Force personnel and Carabinieri lined up facing the United States Navy SEALs that had arrived. Other Carabinieri were sent from Catania to reinforce the Italians, and the crisis resolved.

    The ship continued in service; reflagged in 1987 when the Lauro Line was taken over by the Mediterranean Shipping Company to become StarLauro. On November 30, 1994, the long suffering vessel caught fire off the coast of Somalia while en route to South Africa. The crew attempted to battle the fire for several hours but were unsuccessful. Abandoned, the vessel sank on December 2.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: ACHILLE LAURO The best Italian hospitality afloat

    Web title: Poster 'ACHILLE LAURO The best Italian hospitality afloat'

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