Spanish yard Maritima de Axpe's half-built superyacht bella t

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Imagery courtesy of Solution Strategists

Bella T: the ill fate of Cape Town's half-built 45m "ghost" yacht

10 June 2024 • Written by Holly Margerrison

Two years ago, the 45-metre “skeleton” yacht Bella Twas sold ahead of her auction to a South African businessman after a judge accepted the candidate's final treaty offer. The unfinished vessel has endured a rocky history, passing through owners and shipyards and never quite making it to the finish line. Holly Margerrison tells its story...

Back in the late seventies, Spanish yard Maritima de Axpe was tasked with building a 45-metre yacht for wealthy American industrialist Roy Carver. Frustrated by the build time and delays, Carver turned to Feadship to build another yacht to the same design – a call to which the Dutch yard answered 18 months ahead of the Spanish builder with the 44-metre Lac II (now Valeria).

Constructed in steel and aluminium to a design by Douglas Sharp and Arthur De Fever, the original yacht Carver had commissioned was delivered by Maritima de Axpe in 1976 and named Lac III. Soon after, she was sold to the Sultan of Sabah in Malaysia. Over the coming years, the yacht passed through several owners in Malaysia, before she entered South Africa in 2001  – a location she was not to leave again.

Her new owner, an American named Earl Romans, christened her Summit One and checked her into South Africa's Farocean Marine for a refit which included an overall length increase of five metres. However, works ground to a halt in 2003 amidst a legal financial dispute.

Bella T had been described as a "skeleton"

Official US court documents explain that: "Initially, Farocean was paid for the work it did. Eventually, however, payment disputes arose. Settlement of one lawsuit enabled Farocean to proceed with repairs, but the parties continued to disagree thereafter, and Farocean soon halted all repair work.  It then commenced a legal proceeding in South Africa attaching the Summit One [Romans' yacht] and naming Earl Romans and Malacca as defendants."

The legal dispute continued between the shipyard and owner and the refit was abandoned – leaving the half-built superyacht lying in Cape Town ever since.

As a result, the incomplete yacht sat moored for twenty years where she earned the nickname "ghost" by local residents. But in 2021, it seemed the yacht might have a turn of fate: she was ordered by a court to be auctioned. Documents by Solution Strategists, the maritime auction house set to preside over the auction of Bella T, stated: "She is of modern new design, presently semi complete with hull and aluminium structure 99 per cent complete, welding to Lloyds 100 A1 standard."

The report continued: "We found the vessel in very good condition without any leakage with no wastage in the steel construction except for a small area on the starboard main deck area which will need attention soon". The yacht was to be auctioned along with "four containers located in Northern Cape Town belonging to the project". 

By March 2022, Bella T had been sold ahead of her auction at the Judicial Western Cape High Court to a South African businessman. Under new ownership, Bella T was to be hauled out for repairs before being towed to Hout Bay – where her works were to be completed over the course of two years by Kevo Project Management.

At the time of the sale, Kevo's project manager Daniel Halgryn said: "We are confident we can restore her quality to a top level. From a keel structure perspective, the boat is in very good condition."

Halgryn had also been keen to dispel her nickname: "Hopefully we can change the perception of her. In the future, it will be great for people to come to Cape Town and see her docked in the harbour."

Regarding the sale at the time, Ariella Kuper of Solution Strategists said: "It's a great ending to the story. What's also a nice twist is that this new owner is a local with loads of experience and the potential to restore her."

Now two years on from her sale, it seems as though the yacht has not yet reached the happy ending Kuper and Halgryn were angling for. News of the yacht and its whereabouts has dried up; BOAT International has reached out to Kevo Project Management for an update and awaits a response. Until then, the elusive yacht lives up to its ghostly reputation.

BOAT International has reached out to Kevo Project Management for comment.

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