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State of Hawaii Aims to Remove Unique Tall Ship From Historic Register

Falls of Clyde
Courtesy Save the Falls of Clyde

Published Jun 30, 2023 1:09 AM by The Maritime Executive

The world's last surviving sail-driven oil tanker, the Falls of Clyde, has been at a pier in Honolulu for decades. With limited movement on private plans to relocate and restore the ship, the state now plans to remove it from the Hawaii Register of Historic Places and relocate it from the waterfront. 

The ship is owned by the nonprofit Friends of the Falls of Clyde, but the state took over the vessel's management seven years ago over safety concerns. State inspectors conducted an assessment of the ship's condition earlier this year, and they found that it has deteriorated: the wrought-iron hull is leaking and water has to be pumped out continuously to prevent the ship from sinking at the pier. 

The state wants to redevelop the disused pier where Falls of Clyde sits, and that will require moving the 145-year-old ship to another location. The Hawaii Department of Transportation has wanted the vessel removed since at least 2016, when it declared that the aging ship posed an "unacceptable risk to navigation." Taking it off of the state historic register will clear away some of the legal obstacles to its relocation. 

The historic ship's ultimate fate has not been decided. Friends of the Falls of Clyde would still like to see the ship returned to Scotland, where it was built, and restored to its former glory. As recently as 2018, the odds of bringing the ship home to its birthplace looked good. A non-profit group, Save the Falls of Clyde International, reached an agreement with heavy lift firm Sevenstar Yacht Transfer and planned to depart in February 2019. The deal did not go forward to completion.  

"[Removal from the register] is going to take place, we can’t combat that. But we have an opinion that the ship, given the right resources can in fact be salvaged,” said Bruce McEwan, president of the Friends of the Fall of Clyde, speaking to Hawaii News Now.