The luxury vessel moored in the Port of Malaga. Salvador Salas
Former Russian spy ship docks in Malaga’s megayacht marina

Former Russian spy ship docks in Malaga’s megayacht marina

La Sultana, now a luxury vessel for nautical charters, has a very interesting story to tell

Ignacio Lillo


Tuesday, 16 May 2023, 15:40


It is a classic sea-going vessel, built in 1962, and intended for luxury cruise charters. Measuring some 65 metres in length it has capacity for 12 guests in seven cabins, plus 20 crew. So far, it is the description of just one more craft that calls at the megayacht marina in Malaga. But La Sultana has a back story that makes it very special.

The vessel was originally built under the name of Aji Petri at the Georgi Dimitrov shipyard in Varna (Bulgaria) in 1962. The order for the Russian fleet was part of a series of 12 identical ships, intended for the transport of goods and passengers. Initially, the ship carried up to 102 passengers in cabins on routes through the Black Sea.

Subsequently, the craft was sent to the North Atlantic, where it became one of the last Russian spy ships of the Cold War, according to data available on various specialist web pages. Its official use at the time was as a radio repeater for the International Telecommunication Union, although the general suspicion is that its operators were eavesdropping for the Soviet secret services.

After a brief period being operated by a Bulgarian shipping company, in 2007 the ship was acquired by the La Sultana hotel group and underwent a total refit over a seven-year period which was carried out by Orion Naval Engineering. The reformed luxury craft, La Sultana, which sails under a Panama flag, is now equipped with the most modern navigation technology, which is incorporated into the Art Deco style interior, with oriental influences and expensive woods.

Among the top-end amenities it has an indoor pool, seawater jacuzzi, helicopter lift area and a bathing platform with a hydraulic hatch on the starboard side of the ship, near the bow, which gives direct access to the sea. The large upper deck can host up to 150 party guests.

In its new luxury life, the craft is a regular summer visitor to the Balearic Islands and Moroccan coast, although it has also been seen before in Malaga and the Costa del Sol.

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