SHOTA RUSTAVELI

SHOTA RUSTAVELI

An early postcard view of the SHOTA RUSTAVELI. Peter Knego collection.

MV SHOTA RUSTAVELI

This handsome ocean liner was built by Mathias Thesen Werft of East Germany as the SHOTA RUSTAVELI in 1968 as the fourth in a wonderful series of Soviet vessels called the IVAN FRANKO or "poet" class. The other four sisters were IVAN FRANKO (1964 -- scrapped at Alang in 1997), ALEXANDR PUSHKIN (1965 -- still sailing as Orient Lines' MARCO POLO), TARAS SHEVCHENKO (1967 -- scrapped in Bangladesh in 2005) and MIKHAIL LERMONTOV (1972 -- sank off New Zealand in 1986). These ships had sleek lines with pronounced ice-strengthened bows, rounded superstructures, and tapered afterdecks. From the same era as NAL's glorious SAGAFJORD, their profiles (as built) were quite similar to the Norwegian beauty, if a bit more severe.

These ships were among the last with fully encircling, enclosed promenade decks. They also had remarkable camber and pronounced sheer. They were the subject of much cold war scrutiny with speculation that they operated as spy ships against the West.

SHOTA RUSTAVELI was laid up at Iliychevsk in 1998. She was maintained by a crew of thirty or so who lived on board in the shipyard, making sure her machinery and accommodation were well-tended. In 2000, she was given an extensive refit and renamed ASSEDO. Although the ship was enjoying a renaissance in European cruising, she sailed to Alang for scrapping in late 2003. Her sister, TARAS SHEVCHENKO was then brought out of lay up for a brief time in 2004, but despite a multi-million dollar refit, could not attract a viable charterer. Sadly, she, too was sent off for scrap in early 2005, bypassing Alang for higher bidders in Bangladesh. Now only the vastly rebuilt MARCO POLO (ex ALEXANDR PUSHKIN) survives. Externally, MARCO POLO is still very much a "poet", but internally, she is unrecognizable from her former Soviet days.