Probably no event in recent maritime history was more sobering for vintage ship enthusiasts than the beaching of the PHILIPPINE (the former AUGUSTUS) for scrapping at Alang, India in late 2011. Up until the ship’s sale for scrap months earlier, she had enjoyed a seamless transatlantic career for Italian Line and a well-cared-for, if not secretive, afterlife at various Asian anchorages until a final, checkered existence in Manila adjacent to the Manila Hotel.
The 27,028 gross ton MV AUGUSTUS and her 1951-built sister GIULIO CESARE were the first all-new passenger ships built for Italian Line after the war. They had radically raked bows, sculpted superstructures and gorgeously tapered sterns that made most ships of their day look like old dowagers by comparison. AUGUSTUS was a three class ship with a lido for each class presided over by her powerful aluminum funnel and a unique ventilator that was nicknamed “the robot”. Her interiors were designed by a team of noted maritime and land-based architects and represented the latest in Italian style of the day. The cabal of artists contributing to her inner beauty ranged from the sculptors Mascherini, Marangoni and Sbisa to great painters like Righi, Luzzati and Fiume.
While intended for the South American service to Buenos Aires from Genoa, both ships were diverted to the New York run after the sinking of the ANDREA DORIA in 1956, reverting to their original route when the LEONARDO DA VINCI came on line in 1959.
In 1964, AUGUSTUS was converted to a two class vessel. By the early 1970s, thanks to those giant metal cylinders in the sky, the world’s liner fleet was quickly disappearing. Thus, the poor, redundant GIULIO CESARE was sent off to a premature end for scrapping at La Spezia in 1972 after damaging her rudder. AUGUSTUS soldiered on until 1976, when she was sold to Chinese interests and renamed GREAT SEA. An intended career in Asian-based cruising never took off and she was moved around various anchorages and backwaters, taking on the names OCEAN KING, PHILIPPINES and PRESIDENT. Despite her lack of employment, various photographs taken during these years show her to be immaculately maintained. In 1987, she was renamed ASIAN PRINCESS and then in 1998, she became the MS PHILIPPINES.
A great deal of work and money were put into making the MS PHILIPPINES a viable addition to the Manila Hotel, to be used as both a floating hotel and a banquet and convention facility in Manila harbor. Sadly, the Asian economic crash shattered the plans but the MS PHILIPPINES managed to stay at her moorings, occasionally used for weddings, social events and other functions. Over the years, half-hearted attempts were made to modernize the ship’s interiors but by 2010, the upkeep was far more demanding than any interest in continuing to use the ship.
Efforts to bring the former AUGUSTUS back to Italy for preservation as the last true Italian ocean liner came to naught and the ship finally limped off under tow to Alang as the PHILIPPINE. She began taking on water at one point en route but finally made it to the beach where she was dragged ashore for scrapping at the ripe old age of 60.
EMPRESS OF CANADA ENCHANTED ISLE EUGENIO C FEDOR SHALYAPIN FESTIVALE FIESTA MARINA FRANCONIA ISLANDBREEZE IVERNIA IVORY JEAN MERMOZ LURLINE MADAGASCAR MARDI GRAS MARGARITA L MARIANNA VI MARIANNA 9 MAYAN EMPRESS MERMOZ MONARCH STAR MONTEREY MS PHILIPPINES OLYMPIA OLYMPIC PRINCIPE PERFEITO PRINCESA VICTORIA REGAL EMPRESS RENAISSANCE RHAPSODY REGENT STAR S. A. VAAL SAPPHO SERENADE SHOTA RUSTAVELI SPERO STATENDAM STELLA MARIS II STELLA OCEANIS STELLA SOLARIS TAHITIEN THE BIG RED BOAT II
Full speed at sea. Image courtesy of Maurizio Eliseo.
At Manila in 1999.
On the beach at Alang in 2011.
Final image from August 2012.