Historic liner sinks on way to repairs

Kyodo

A liner once used by millionaire travelers sank early Saturday in the Pacific Ocean off Wakayama Prefecture while it was being towed to China, the Japan Coast Guard said.

The Scandinavia was going to be repaired in Shanghai before being turned into a hotel in Sweden, its country of origin.

Nobody was injured.

The 5,100-ton ship, formerly named the Stella Polaris, was built in 1927 and cruised the world’s oceans as a luxury passenger ship until 1969, although it was confiscated by Nazi Germany for a period during World War II.

Izuhakone Railway Co., a Seibu group company, bought the 127-meter vessel in 1970 and anchored it in Suruga Bay in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, where it served as a Scandinavian-style hotel and restaurant. From 1999 it operated only as a restaurant.

The company closed the facility in March 2005 due to slow sales and sold the ship to a Swedish company.

The ship was towed out of Numazu by a tugboat on Thursday for the 10-day journey to Shanghai.

The tugboat’s crew reported to the coast guard at around 10:10 p.m. Friday that the ship had begun to take on water and was listing.

The ship was brought to a port in Kushimoto, Wakayama Prefecture, but after it began to list further the tugboat towed it offshore at around 1:30 a.m. Saturday. It sank at around 2 a.m. some 3 km off Kushimoto, the coast guard said. Nobody was aboard the ship.

The ship leaked a small amount of fuel that will not affect shipping in the area, the coast guard said.

“We are surprised at the news as it has only left the port a few days ago,” said an employee of Izuhakone Railway’s general affairs department. “We’ve taken care of the ship for more than 30 years. We feel very sad.”

The Swedish company, Petro-Fast AB, planned to operate the ship as a hotel-restaurant in Stockholm, according to Izuhakone Railway.