With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian


China Sea Discovery

Ex Fair Princess, Fairsea, Fairland, built 1955 as RMS Carinthia


Written by a senior officer of the China Sea Discovery


China Sea Discovery Laid up in Taiwan

Fair Princess has been a popular cruise ship in both America and Australia and Australians would have preferred to see this fine liner continue to cruise the Pacific. For she was one of the last classic liners built by Cunard, bought and rebuilt by the popular Sitmar Line, still in service. When it was decided to replace her with another ex Sitmar built ship Sky Princess, P&O Australia decided Fair Princes would be relocated to New Zealand, which would have been a lucrative market.

However, suddenly an announcement was made that Fair Princess had been sold to Asian interests. We are now aware that she was purchased by Charles Ming and associates (including Casino Canada) for an incredible US$15 million, which she was certainly not worth. P&O must have laughed all the way to the bank, for who would be so stupid to pay that much for an aging ship! Obviously an inexperienced Charles Ming was. She was about to become an Asian casino cruise ship. Even before she finally departed Australia, the China Sea Discovery saga began.

The story presented on this page was sent to us by an ex crew member who witnessed the events described below. Due to language problems, there may be some minor inaccuracies in the translation.


Apparently, P&O Australia stipulated in the contract that no one from the buyer, being Charles Ming and associates (including Casino Canada), were permitted to board her until the day of the hand over. When she was boarded by her the new owners, captain and crew, it was noted that the ship had been emptied of tools spare parts, right down to computers throughout the ship etc. Fair Princess departed under the command of Captain Anders Anderson.


Upon arrival in Hong Kong the ship became the subject for a PSC (Passenger Safety Certificate) and the result was detention. The PSC review presented seven pages full of defects that had to be fixed. Other problem being, that the third party protection and indemnity insurance restricted liability, thus the ship had to take special actions during the night, with fire door having to be closed, which is an unusual action.

The intentions with the project were to operate gambling cruises during weekends out of Hong Kong and to operate cruises between Haikou in Hainan, and Halong Bay in Vietnam.

A charter company from Vietnam would be the first consortium that received permission to operate cruises between the Peoples Republic of China and another country.

During her refurbishments, which sadly included changing some public rooms into casino spaces, many other problems were encountered. These, together with the Safety Certificates, saw the owner was rapidly running out of available funds.

Then, blue asbestos was found onboard thus, the owner obtained some local workers to rip it out. Obviously, these men were not professional asbestos removers, as the managers soon found out, and the work was stopped. The owners were informed about the regulations connected with asbestos handling and it was agreed that a qualified company from the UK was supposed to come in for the clean up, as this particular company had worked on her earlier and was aware the location of the asbestos present.

It was assumed by the crew that it was a done deal, for obviously, there were dangers involved for the ships crew. However, later in the night more local workers came onboard commencing to work on the removal once again. Again there was a dispute onboard.

“On site” in charge of the conversion was Charles Ming’s son Stephen Ming, who was an obstinate young man in the early 20’s. During the dry docking it was discovered that another condition related PSC, for the upper rudder pintel had been deleted when the vessel was afloat? Thus based on this discovery she was only given a 30 days PSSC.

China Sea Discovery’s problems were only just beginning, for on the day of her departure, with pilot onboard, tugs with lines attached, the ship was ordered to a halt by the shipyard, as they had not received their payments.

Mr. Ming having come to an agreement, the China Sea Discovery finally sailed for Hainan.

The channel into Haikou is quite narrow and has a side current, her entrance also has two bends. All was well and the vessel came alongside as planned.

China Sea Discovery is a steam ship with twin screws, but she has no thrusters, this together with just one rudder, she has a reputation for being a hard case with manoeuvring.

On the way out, with the leading lights hidden behind the funnel and only the channel buoys to relay on, the ship ran aground twice, although both times she was inside the channel. Both times she was freed. In due course she passed the rather shallow channel and finally was back in deeper waters. At that stage the Master informed the company that he did not intended to enter Haikou again, thus, upon the ship’s return the company had to arrange to use the tenders to bring passengers ashore.

Onboard during the maiden voyage, there were three representatives of the charter company and it was discovered that they where armed, one being the “top dog for the police in Haikou.”

The trip down to Halong bay went without any trouble, and I must say, overlooking the bow and watching the it going up and down in the night, brought the image back to the time when she was crossing the Atlantic.

As the ship was heavily delayed on departure, due to the earlier grounding, she arrived in Halong Bay late in the afternoon instead of the morning. It was a falling tide and there was not sufficient water below the ship, thus the Master decided to anchor at the outer anchorage, otherwise the ship had to wait until the next morning to enter.

The local tenders took passengers ashore and shore excursions took place. Apparently, great pressure was placed on the Master, by both from the charter and the local tourist board, to bring the ship into the port. However, he would not endanger the ship. As I can recall the last tender came back after midnight and as the crew did not have navigation equipment apart from a compass, I believe two of tenders even went aground, such was the ridiculous situation at Halong Bay.

As the ship headed north, the pressure on the master became even worse, for he refused to enter Haikou again as he had clearly stated after the first visit. Both he and Mr. Ming received verbal abuse, as well as faxed messages from the charter, which said, that if the ship did not enter Haikou, the personal consequences could be severe for both of them. They were told that tendering passengers ashore would be denied. The situation became so serious, as the ship sailed that night towards Haikou both the Master had to have two bodyguards outside his cabin, whilst Mr. Ming and his family had to be hidden somewhere onboard., so ridiculous was the situation.

As the vessel arrived at Haikou, 3 pilots and two tugs awaited, yet again the Master refused to enter Haikou, thus, the situation became even worse. Just 2 hours south of Haikou there is an ore port which has sufficient water depth and plenty of space, but China Sea Discovery was denied to use it, as it was being used by another cruise company.

After the ship was stationary outside Haikou for almost a full day, permission was finally given to use the other port. Everything went well and all passengers disembarked. Whilst in port, the Master remained in his office with two bodyguards outside the door and handed the ship over to the Staff Captain, just in case he was going to be “asked to come in to Haikou for questioning.” Thankfully, this did not occur and it has to be said that the Master departed the port as quick as he could that evening, as the situation had become that volatile.

As the vessel departed for Hong Kong without any passengers, a dinner was ordered for all crew in the ships dinning room, which was one of the few happy times on this ship of troubles. Back in Hong Kong the owners has a plan B, which was to commence permanent gambling cruises. As there were a good number of ships based in Hong Kong, which were far superior, such as the Superstar Leo and other ships, the gamblers never arrived. One night a bunch of guys from another company came onboard with their own staff chips and their gamblers and departed in the morning with the money, just leaving a little for the owner.

As the financial situation became worse and worse we were given orders that the Filipino crew could only have one ball of rice a day, and that all the grapes for the passengers had to be cut in half, so they could not eat that much and so on and on.

It is obvious from this photograph the ship suffered greatly from poor loadings.

One day the Master was ordered to use the fuel that was supposed to be as permanent ballast (a Class requirement) instead for getting fuel from a supplier. It took the Master a length of time to convince the owner what stability on a vessel meant. It was quite obvious the owners should never have bought a ship, as they had no maritime background whatsoever. The result is, a magnificent ship is now laid up rotting away as the owners are fighting amongst themselves.

As stated earlier, this tragic story of a ship that has had a fine record was sent to us by a crew member who experienced the events shown above.

PLEASE NOTE: This remarkable story was provided by the senior officer on board the CSD, We take no responsibility for its accuracy; however, we have done everything in our power to check the details, before deciding to use the story as part of our feature on Carinthia / Fairsea / Fairland / Fair Princess / China Sea Discovery.


Page 1 – Foreword – Construction

Page 2 – Sitmar buys Carinthia and Ivernia – Sisters go Russian

Page 3 - Fairwind / Fairsea – Sitmar sold to P&O Princess Cruises

Page 4 – The Fairstar the Australian connection

Page 5 – Fair Princess becomes an Aussie

Page 6 – Passenger list images

Page 7Albatros ex Dawn Princess / Fairwind / Sylvania / Ivernia /

Saxonia – Passenger list images

Fair Princess Photo Album – Exteriors

Fair Princess Photo Album - Interiors

Fedor Shalyapin - ex Franconia / Ivernia

China Sea Discovery – ex Fair Princess / Fairsea / Fairland / Carinthia

China Sea Discovery Photo Album

China Sea Discovery Saga




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