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All images courtesy of Thomas Wissman

Ambriabella: Salvaged 61-year-old passenger ship ready to begin full-scale conversion

13 February 2023 • Written by Katia Damborsky

A 52-metre former passenger ship called Ambriabella is ready to begin an extensive restoration and conversion at Quaiat Yard in Trieste, Italy. 

The vessel, which was subject to a nine-year search and salvage operation that ended in 2009, is looking for a new owner to undertake the multi-year project. Until then, she remains on the dock at her birthplace in Trieste, close to where she was launched by Felszegi Shipyards in 1962.

Extensive plans for the conversion have been put forward by maritime consultancy firm Wissmann & Associates LLC. The firm has called the restoration a "wonderful" opportunity with plenty of potential for a prospective owner with a penchant for classic 60's Italian design. 

"She is part of an époque that demonstrated Italian design as an art form," said Thomas Wissman, president of the consultancy firm. "With her current 295GT she is way under the 500GT threshold to convert her to a yacht that can cruise with 12 guests comfortably."

Ambriabella in her past life as a passenger vessel

The proposal for the restoration is based on the successful conversion of Ambriabella's sistership Dionea, which underwent a multi-year conversion that wrapped up in 2013 at Genovese yard T. Mariotti with design input from Ivana Porfir. Dionea is now a successful charter yacht operating across the West Mediterranean. 

Both yachts started life as Venetian 'Vaporetti' water buses connecting Trieste, Grado and Venice. Ambriabella was intended to serve the Trieste-Grado line in a bid to encourage tourism between the two towns. She hit the water in January 1962 and undertook her maiden voyage to Grado in July of the same year. 

She began serving passengers as far as Croatia before being sold to a Greek shipping company that put her in service around the Greek island for several years. Then, around the end of 1990s, she fell off the radar.

The identical vessels were launched on the same day in January 1962 in the presence of a number of Italian maritime officials

After a nine-year search, a group of Italian entrepreneurs eventually traced her to a small shipyard around 40 kilometres from Piraeus in Greece after spotting her via satellite imagery. They reached her in the nick of time — she was about to face the wrecking ball — and entered into negotiations with the vessel's former owner, a professional magician. 

On 23 September in 2009, she was towed back to Trieste where she is currently lying waiting on an owner with a clear vision for the historic vessel. Under the conversion proposal, Ambriabella would receive a full-beam owner's suite with a private al fresco lounge area, a full-beam VIP cabin and a further four guest cabins. She would have two lounges with a bar, a full-beam dining saloon and a dedicated guest pantry for guests to make use of away from crew operations. She could also be fitted with traditional, hybrid or diesel-electric engines.

The vessel was saved from the scrap heap in the nick of time

The cost of the restoration has not yet been disclosed, but Wissman has said: "Yard capacity and the right experience are available for this project for an immediate start."

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