Scotland plans to convert a second passenger ship to refugee accommodation

Scotland has announced plans to convert a second passenger ship into temporary accommodation for Ukrainian refugees. The Scottish government had recently suspended its visa scheme, stating that it needed to make further accommodation arrangements. It cited the shortage of housing and a continuing stream of applications.

The Scottish government has chartered 48,000 gt cruise ship Ambition (IMO 9172777), which will be located in Glasgow to provide accommodation for up to 1,750 Ukrainian refugees.

Built in 1999, the ship ultimately was acquired by Carnival Corp, which ran it with Ibero Cruises, Costa, and finally AIDA, before selling the ship in January 2022 to the start-up British firm Ambassador Cruise Line.

Renamed as the Ambition, since April it has been idle in Bar, Montenegro as the cruise company had not planned to place it into service until March 2023.

The ship has 713 passenger cabins that can accommodate approximately 1,200 people.

Scotland did not say for how long the ship had been chartered, but said that it was due to be fully operational in Glasgow by September. The cruise ship departed Montenegro over the weekend and after a stop in Malta is currently proceeding to France.

The Ambition will join the Victoria I (IMO 9281281), a passenger ship that is currently docked at Leith (entered with Gard), which is housing approximately 1,000 refugees.

The initial charter (from Tallink) for six months began in July, but Scotland has the option to extend it for three months more.

Scotland Minister with Special Responsibility for Refugees from Ukraine Neil Gray said that “following the arrival of the M/S Victoria I – which has been well received by people on board – the Scottish Government is chartering a second passenger ship – the M/S Ambition – which will be located in Glasgow from early September. This will further enhance our ability to provide safe and secure accommodation for those who need it.”

As of August the Scottish government has offered sanctuary to 10,056 displaced people from Ukraine, far exceeding original estimates for 3,000 people. The number of Ukrainians seeking refuge in Scotland continued to rise, with government officials reporting that to date they have received nearly 34,000 visa applications under the scheme.

“We are getting close to capacity for the temporary accommodation currently available, particularly across the Central Belt,” said Gray. “While areas like Glasgow and Edinburgh are more familiar to Ukrainians, we are encouraging everyone arriving here to consider other areas across Scotland, especially as we see more visas being issued.”

Estonia and Netherlands have also chartered ships to house refugees from Ukraine. The Netherlands recently said it would bring in three more ships to house refugees, and had proposed to anchor the vessels offshore while providing housing. That idea was withdrawn after wide criticism that this would make the vessels more akin to prison ships than refugee housing.

However, there has also been some local resistance to docking, amid fears that a sudden increase in the number of refugees could overwhelm smaller coastal towns.

Some 5.2m refugees from Ukraine are currently estimated to be spread across Europe.

1999-built, Bahamas-flagged, 48,123 gt Ambition is owned by Wake Asset Co Ltd care of manager Ambassador Cruise Line Ltd of London, UK. ISM manager is Bernhard Schulte Cruise Services of Hamburg, Germany. It is entered with American Club on behalf of Wake Asset Co Ltd. As of August 16th the vessel was en route from Bar, Montenegro to Dunkirk East, France, ETA August 23rd. It was in the Mediterranean between Sicily and Tunisia.