Cash buyers have emerged as the owners of an elderly cruise ship that was sold via a sealed tender auction in Malaysia in October.

With its demise imminent, Worldport Corp's 18,500-gt Oriental Dragon (built 1972) becomes the 28th cruise ship sold for recycling since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020.

Collectively, these demolition deals have removed 1.19m gt of capacity from the sector.

The High Court of Malaya Kuala Lumpur's Admiralty Division has revealed that the Oriental Dragon was sold for MYR 20.5m ($4.9m), which equates to $516 per ldt.

The vessel's ownership, according to IHS Markit data, was recently changed to Virna Maritime Corp, a Mumbai-based entity that has served as a holding company for the ownership of several scrap-bound vessels.

Machtrans, an Indian company that specialises in last-voyage deliveries, has taken over as technical manager of the ship, which has had its name shortened to Dragon.

Recycling sources say an onward sale to yards on the Indian subcontinent is being lined up.

Space-age vibe

With a cocktail lounge perched high in its funnel, the Sun Viking was one of a trio of trendsetting cruiseships that launched Royal Caribbean in the early 1970s. Photo: Ozzy Delaney/Creative Commons

Recent social media images of the rusting and abandoned Oriental Dragon swinging at anchor off Penang present a far different picture from its Miami debut almost 50 years ago as Royal Caribbean's Sun Viking.

It was part of a trio of modern cruise ships with a space-age appearance that included a cocktail lounge perched on their funnels that helped launch Royal Caribbean from a small start-up to one of the biggest players in the cruise market.

After being sold by Royal Caribbean in 1997, the former Sun Viking led a peripatetic life, sailing for Star Cruises and Hyundai Merchant Marine before passing through the hands of several Asian casino cruise companies.

Hong Kong-based Worldport, its last owner, ran into financial difficulties after a Malaysian casino charterer abandoned ship in March 2021, having suspended operations due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The shipowner, deprived of charter hire, was left with the responsibility of settling a pile of unpaid debts and crew wages left behind by the charter.

The ship was arrested by its crew and other trade creditors in February after Worldport failed to secure funding to settle the debts.