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The American Star was once the biggest single class liner in the world. Thousands of British families travelled on her when she was used during the days of the £10 assisted package to start new lives in Australia.

Just before her final voyage in 1994, the American Star was sold to the Chaophraya Development Transport Company which planned to tow her to Thailand and convert her into a floating hotel. The journey began New Years Eve 1993 and the ship passed Gibraltar on 12th January, 1994, in perfect towing conditions. But the next day, just 100 miles off the coast of Morocco, the weather deteriorated and on Saturday 15th January the tow line snapped.

The next day the tug crew managed to attach an emergency tow line but the bad weather which deteriorated into Force 12 winds, caused the emergency tow line to break. In a last bid to save the ship, sailors from the tug were sent aboard to connect two ropes to the tug. But these also broke and finally the sailors had to be lifted off the liner by helicopter.

The ship drifted but early on the 18th January the American Star ran aground on the west coast of the island of Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands. No immediate effort was made to re-float her (it was said because of the classic age-old maritime assistance argument regarding payment) and just 48 hours later she broke in two.

The classic age-old maritime assistance argument is over whether the rescuing crew are merely "giving assistance" and therefore get paid just their ordinary "call-out" hourly rate no matter whether they save the ship or not (very much in the insurance company's interests as the cost is substantially lower), or whether it is "salvage" and they get paid a percentage of the value of the ship and its cargo if it is saved, but nothing if the ship is lost (much, much more). This has to be agreed before any attempt to assist is given. Professional salvors will stand off and watch a ship sink rather than offer assistance before the commercial terms are agreed.

During the days following the shipwreck, word spread and local islanders flocked to salvage all they could from the ship – furniture, brass plates, crockery, interior fittings. Indeed, to this day, there is a café in Puerto del Rosario El Naufragio which is completely furnished from windows to the bar with items taken from the wreck. You can find the café at the corner of Avda de Mayor and Jesus y Maria.

Conspiracy theorists ask why the ship took the route it did, why it wasn’t taken through the Suez Canal and why there was no attempt to re-float her.

During the first few days following the shipwreck, the American Star could be reached by boat. And although the ship appears close to the shore in a peaceful bay, there are strong currents and at lest eight people have died trying to explore the ship. Today, all that is left is the bow of the ship rising majestically from the waves. Eventually, this too will give way to the power of the sea.

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