Reports from the crew members
(Stoker, Torre del Greco – NA)
Crew member: Rolando Sorrentino
Event: delivery of the Raffaello in Iran
“During the crisis of the shipping area in the 70’s, the shipping company “Italia” decided to sell its flagships Michelangelo and Raffaello to Iran for use as Iranian barrack ships. I was ordered by the shipping company to board Raffaello in Genoa on 29/04/1977 and deliver the ship to the new buyers and a few days later we left for the harbour of Bushire in Iran. The voyage was almost 15 days long. I had signed on as stoker working the boilers.
During the navigation the atmosphere on board was really sad. The crew indeed ( we were nearly 26-27 people) was aware that once the ship had arrived in Iran the loss of this marvellous ship, undersold to Iran for use as barrack ship, would become true. We were worried because we knew we would lose our job too.
At Bushire, once Raffaello moored, the Iranian authority went on board to formally receive delivery of the ship by our commander. I remember with deep emotion the lowering of the Italian flag, with all the Italian crew about to cry, and at the same time the Iranian flag-raising ceremony.
On board we were entrusted with the care of the ship in order to make everything in good working order and to teach the Iranian authorized staff how to take care of the ship.
A month after delivery of Raffaello I disembarked and left for Italy. Three months later I came back on board bit soon realized that the atmosphere between the Italian crew and the Iranian soldiers had really changed. It was as if we were intruders and the Iranian soldiers often assumed an air of superiority. Because of the tension on board, the crew complained to the shipping company “Italia”.
Three months later I came back to Italy for a rest period. Later, I was again aboard Raffaello. I had been doing this since 1977 continued until the 29/03/1980.
My last embarkation, from the 15/06/1980 to 11/08/1980, was aboard Michelangelo. The ship was still moored in Iran at Bandar Abbas. Here the atmosphere on board was the same as on Raffaello, except Michelangelo was moored in a harbour nearer to the city. Raffaello was nearer to an almost desolate area. I had been going back and forth between Raffaello and Michelangelo for months until the Iranian authority, in particular the soldiers who were on board, threatened us to leave the ship. We were vandalized many times. Some of our cabins were destroyed and we were often insulted. Furthermore the Iranian authority paid our salaries so once that a new crew was formed learning from our experience, their intention was to force us off the ship to save money.
After our complaints against the Iranian soldiers’ behaviour, the shipping company “Italia” with the help of the Italian Consulate decided to return the Italian crew to Italy.
As long as we were on board everything was working properly. As soon as the ships were left without our competence everything went to ruin. The Raffaello began to take on water until it was stranded. Later I learned it was bombed during the Iran-Iraq war and it sank. The Michelangelo was laid up at Karachi.
When I left Michelangelo after my last embarkation, in a fit of rage, while I was going down the ship’s gangplank, I threw my cabin’s key in the sea. I almost experienced a sense of release, saying to myself: “I’ll never come back on board”. Now I’m a little sorry for throwing that key into the water because it would have been a memento of that experience, though the most beautiful memory was that of sailing on the two most charming Italian ships, ploughing through the Atlantic Ocean to America and during their cruising days.
This is the testimony of my life spent on board of the ships I loved the most among those of the shipping company “Italia””.
Torre del Greco (Naples) 22/12/2004
(We thank Mr. Saverio Pomposo, for have provided to gather this statement)