Blue Gold was once the flagship of Italy’s prestigious Benetti Group. This 165-foot three-deck super yacht had every luxury imaginable. When it was built in 1982, Blue Gold was the largest sailing yacht to come out of the Benetti shipyard. It had accommodations for up to 12 guests, a master suite on the main deck, an office with video conferencing and internet facilities — and, reflecting her name, there was gold trim throughout.
Then, on Friday the 13th of March, 2015, Cyclone Pam ripped through the islands of Vanuatu. The storm caused unprecedented devastation. Classified as Category 5, Port Vila recorded wind speeds of 116 knots gusting to 185 knots. The anchors on Blue Gold dragged. When the wind stopped the yacht was lying wrecked in a bed of pristine coral near the Sunae village on the island of Moso.
According to the database SuperYacht, Blue Gold was owned by Joep van den Nieuwenhuyzen, a Dutch investor. In the 1980’s he bought bankrupt companies and turned them around to profitability. In 1985, he acquired the Royal Begemann Group and it grew into a company with 140 subsidiaries and a value of $1.35 billion. Van den Nieuwenhuyzen was accused of insider trading. In 2006, he was convicted of fraud.
Joep van den Nieuwenhuyzen sailed Blue Gold to the South Pacific but in 2012 when the yacht arrived in Port Vila it was seized by the Vanuatu government for unpaid taxes, according to a report in the Vanuatu Daily Post.
Today Blue Gold lies abandoned on a remote shoreline in Vanuatu. The yacht has not been vandalized or looted. The chiefs and villagers of Moso Island have asked the Government, through Efate Rural Member of Parliament Gillion William, to remove Blue Gold from their reef, according to the Daily Post. The islanders say the ship is a hazard and causing damage to the reef and the environment. They want it out of their backyard.
The parliment minister told the newspaper that the Department of Ports and Harbour, has been working on a resolution. “They had several meetings with the landowners and council of chiefs, (in) which they attempted to address the issue,” he said. “Unfortunately, the current legislation has some loopholes. The responsibility does not lie with the government, it lies solely on the owner of the vessel. We are working on this,” according to the report.
In the meantime life on Moso Island is simple and self-sufficient. Islanders fish from traditional dugout outrigger canoes. Villagers take their produce some 20 miles overland to sell in the markets of Port Vila. There are no roads or cars on Moso. Access is via banana boat. The Ni-Vanuatu villagers are often described as the happiest people on earth, always laughing and smiling. But it must test the limits of their good humor that the view from the tiny village of Sunae (population about 40) is obscured by the wreckage of this mega yacht, of which neither the ship’s owner, their insurance company, or the government seems inclined to take responsibility.
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Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2019
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