The Small French operator Compagnie du Ponant has been sold by the giant container company CMA CGM to Merit Corporation, a Lebanese private equity holding. Merit already owned 80 per cent of CMA CGM, with the balance of shares held by the Turc Yildrim Group of Turkey. At the same time, Ponant has disposed of its oldest vessel, Le Diamant (1974/8,282), which has been acquired by a Bahamian company, which in turn is owned by International Shipping Partners of Miami.

Le Diamant was built as the coastal ro-ro Fernhill, later becoming the Begonia. In 1984 she was acquired by Exploration Cruise Lines, to be completely rebuilt as a luxury cruise ship at a cost of US$40 million. The work was undertaken by Lloyd Werft in Bremerhaven, and the vessel entered service in mid-1986 as the 226-passenger Explorer Starship. She later established a fine reputation as the upmarket Song of Flower and was acquired by Ponant in 2004.

As reported in Ships Monthly in December 2011, Ponant has placed an order for a 10,700gt sister to Le Boreal (2010) and L’Austral (2011) and sold Le Levant (1998/3,500gt) to Paul Gauguin Cruises as Moana.


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