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The semi-submerged Willow paddle steamer in Benalmádena Marina Ñito Salas
Half-sunken Mississippi paddle steamer in Benalmádena marina finally set to be scrapped

Half-sunken Mississippi paddle steamer in Benalmádena marina finally set to be scrapped

The Town Hall will do the necessary work to remove the iconic vessel after the Willow’s owner failed to meet yesterday’s court deadline to do so

Marina Rivas

Benalmádena

Thursday, 27 April 2023, 09:40

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Benalmádena Town Hall has started the process to remove and scrap the half-sunken Mississippi paddle steamer, the Willow, from its berth in the marina on the Costa del Sol.

The council was forced to act after the boat’s owner failed to meet yesterday’s deadline (26 April) to do so, a ruling imposed by the courts after lengthy legal battles lasting several years.

Town mayor, Víctor Navas, announced the move and said, " the council will have to mount this work because the owner has not undertaken it. We will do it and have to claim the costs back. He added: "We will finally be able to free this berth, removing an eyesore that seriously damages the image of the marina."

The Willow, which has been moored in Benalmádena for decades, was built at the beginning of the last century to sail on the Mississippi. After being brought to Benalmádena it was used for some time as a floating nightclub, as well as a restaurant and even, allegedly, a secret brothel. It was refurbished in Liverpool before coming to the Costa, and is one of the few Mississippi steamboats to be found in European ports.

Neglect

But in 2019, after years of neglect, the vessel became a victim of bad weather and rough seas and started to sink. Although it didn’t have any fuel or machinery onboard the port put up an anti-pollution barrier as a precaution.

Speaking back in February, town mayor Navas announced that the appeal filed by the marina against a previous sentence that ordered it to pay 400,000 euros for the termination of a contract with the company that owns the boat had been accepted by the provincial court of Malaga. Originally, the owners had demanded more than 13 million euros based on an alleged rental contract “which was not produced during the lawsuit, only a document printed on a computer without any signature and, despite being called a lease contract, neither the payment of the deposit nor the payment of any amount to prove the actual existence of the contract was accredited.”

On February 1st, the mayor said, "We announce good news for Benalmádena: the Willow has a date for its removal from the marina and scrapping - 26 April - which will allow us to recover the image and aesthetics of Benalmádena marina," said Navas, at a press conference he gave with the local councillor responsible for the port, Encarnación Cortés.

Owner ordered to pay the costs of removing the old steamer

The mayor said the initial sentence, which ruled that the town hall had to pay 400,000 euros to terminate the contract with the boat's owners, “has finally been reduced to only 4,000 euros”. The new sentence also ordered the owner to pay the costs of removing the old steamer.

"This ruling confirms that the strategy of the town hall and its municipal company Puerto Deportivo was the right one, defending the interests of all the citizens of Benalmádena, and demonstrating that we are a responsible government that works for the town," Navas said.

"The provincial court of Malaga has partially upheld the appeal lodged by the marina, and completely dismisses the appeal lodged by the owner of the Willow," Cortés said at the time.

"After the ruling of the provincial court, the compensation that the marina must pay to the owners of the Willow goes from the 400,000 euros of the first instance ruling to only 10,000 euros, because it considers that there is new damage as a result of the contract they signed with municipal company Puerto Deportivo for the repair of the boat," Cortés added.

"At this point, it should be clarified that we have detected a mathematical error in the calculations. The sentence includes an inaccurate amount. We believe that the compensation that we should pay to the owner of the Willow is 4,000 euros, and we have told the court," the mayor said in February.

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