Capsized Cruise Ship Declared a Total Loss

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A month after it capsized without warning at a San Pedro shipyard, the former cruise ship Princess Louise has been declared a total loss by its owners, the Bank of San Pedro.

"We've declared it a total loss, and we believe that's what the (insurance) surveyor is going to do," bank President Lance Oak said. According to Oak, the 67-year-old ship is insured for $1.5 million.

A fixture in the Los Angeles port area after it was converted into a restaurant in 1966, the Princess Louise suddenly listed to starboard and capsized on Oct. 30 as it was being readied for sale at Southwest Marine of San Pedro. The cause is still unclear.

Since then, the half-sunken ship has attracted the interest of a range of groups with strikingly different plans for its future.

Several salvage companies have proposed to carve the ship up and send the pieces to scrap yards. But Los Angeles scuba divers are hoping to get the 360-foot vessel refloated and then scuttled off the Palos Verdes Peninsula for use as an underwater recreational attraction.

And a Washington state steamboat enthusiast would like to return the ship to its original home port, Vancouver, Canada. The Princess Louise, he argues, is the last 1920s-era West Coast cruise liner left intact.

"It is to West Coast coastal liner history what the Delta Queen is to river boat history," said Loren Herrigstad, who said he will try to raise money for the project through a group he founded recently called the Steamship Preservation Trust. "She deserves the same care and recognition."

Oak said he has received proposals from nine salvage companies interested in being hired to remove the ship, which is resting on its starboard side in the slip where it was moored.

Only three of the proposals provide for refloating the ship, he said. The rest would involve scrapping it. But Oak said he would not rule out refloating the ship, saying cost estimates supplied in some proposals indicate that the method "might be economical."

"Economics is the major question," Oak said. "I have a responsibility to my shareholders." He declined to elaborate or to reveal the estimated costs of the proposals.

One group keenly interested in refloating the Princess Louise is the Greater Los Angeles Council on Diving, which has been working with the state Department of Fish and Game to find a ship for an artificial reef.

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