By: Scott Way
An unfinished superyacht rusting in a Cape Town harbour for the last 20 years is about to get another chance.
The Bella T is a 147-foot superyacht designed by renowned naval architects Arthur de Fever and Doug Sharp and was originally built for American industrialist Roy Carver. Except Carver never took ownership of the vessel, and after a prodigious amount of legal drama that can only be described as excessive, she has been bobbing lifelessly in Table Bay Harbour in South Africa for the last 20 years. Her history is as messy as her deck.
According to Business Insider South Africa, the ship was commissioned by Carver in 1975. At that time, his tire retreading business was booming after it made Fortune's list of Top 1000 Companies in 1973. Carver enlisted Spanish boatbuilders Maritima de Axpe to build the Bella T, but his patience wore thin when the company fell behind schedule. It's worth nothing that one of Carver's famous statements is that he valued time more than he valued money.
The ship was commissioned under the name LAC III in honour of Carver's mother, but angry that the Spanish company couldn’t deliver on time, Carver proceeded to have the same boat commissioned by another company, Feadship de Vries in the Netherlands. The second ship was given the name LAC II. The LAC II was completed 18 months before LAC III, and Carver finally had his superyacht. It was also the first-ever privately owned superyacht with a helicopter landing pad.
The LAC III, meanwhile, started her slow and agonizing downward spiral.
Sadly, Carver only enjoyed the LAC II for 6 years before passing away from a heart attack in 1981 at the age of 71. The LAC II was sold shortly thereafter and given a new name, Valeria, and is still in service today.
The LAC III meanwhile, with its growing reputation for being problematic, was sold to the Sultan of Sabah in Malaysia and renamed Puteri Sabah II. It was then sold again and renamed to Puteri Sipada. Eventually, the ship was sold in 1999 to an American named Earl Romans who renamed it Summit One, according to the Superyacht Times.
That's where things get even muddier. Summit One was shipped from Malaysia to South Africa for an extensive refit, which also included lengthening the boat by 16 feet (5 m). Unsurprisingly, the refit ran into problems. While being worked on by a company called Farocean Marine, Summit One was renamed to Bella T, likely in acknowledgement of the refit and the new length. However, the company claimed Romans failed to make the necessary payments to complete the work. The legal dispute ended up in South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal, who charged Romans with paying the outstanding balance, only for him to default again a short time later. The back and forth continued for a few years until the legal case, and the ship, were effectively moored in 2003.
The LAC III/Bella T was bought and sold several times between 2003 and 2008, but none of her owners could get her moved to a new location, and all of them ran into financial or legal trouble trying to finish the project. Her last owner was Europa Shipping Capital, who is currently the respondent in the upcoming public auction. In that matter, there is a claim against the vessel for €835,000 from Rapaport Flagship Capital, meaning there is at least one outstanding debt against the cursed ship. The Bella T was assigned for public auction by the Western Cape High Court in November 2021, and her auction is set to take place in March 2022.
The auction will include the ship and four shipping containers with her various parts and extras - engine components, propellers, and interior fittings. She's currently stripped down to bare steel, and completing the refit and making her seaworthy comes with an estimated cost of R37 million (South African rand), which is roughly $2.5 million USD. Even that seems like a very conservative estimate.
According to the Maritime Bureau of Africa, the Bella T's steel hull and aluminum superstructure are still in good condition. Her engine room, bilges, and interior layout are epoxied and still serviceable, although the exterior is due for another application. You can add the hull work to her repair checklist. We'd also recommend shipping the boat to a new harbour, clearing the debt, and renaming her again. However, if you're going to rename the boat, make sure you follow the ritual to the letter otherwise the Bella T is going to end up rusting away in a new city under the same spell.