What happened to Saddam Hussein’s luxury yachts

An aerial view of the yacht ‘Al-Mansur’, once owned by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, which has lain for years on the water floor in the Shatt al-Arab waterway in Basra.

  • Saddam Hussein’s yachts were once luxurious signs of the dictator’s power.
  • One boat is now a destroyed picnic area for fishermen. Another was reportedly almost a hotel.
  • Photos today show these yachts as Iraqi officials debate what to do with them.

Saddam Hussein’s superyachts were once symbols of luxury, built in the 1980s and equipped with spacious presidential suites, marble tiles and various amenities.

But decades after his death, Hussein’s ships have met a very different fate: one continues to wreck in a river – a picnic spot for fishermen – while the other almost became a hotel.

The multi-million dollar “Al-Mansur” yacht was once customized to Hussein’s personal requirements, with gold trim and an impressive atrium, according to Superyacht Content. Although Hussein never boarded it, the nearly 400-foot (120 m) long boat remained in the harbor for safekeeping.

When US troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, the “Al-Mansur” was a juicy target. Troops destroyed the boat and sank it in the Shatt al-Arab waterway.

The ‘Al Mansur’, the private yacht of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, is docked in the center of Basra, April 10, 2003.
STR New/Reuters

20 years later, any sign of wealth or glamor is gone. “Al-Mansur” has been looted and gutted, the right side sunk deep into the riverbed.

But fishermen told Reuters it’s not such a bad result. “When it was owned by the former president, no one could get close to it,” says fisherman Hussein Sabahi, who enjoys a cup of tea on the wreck after a long day of fishing.

“I can’t believe this was Saddam’s and now I’m the one moving around it,” he added.

Saddam’s rusting yacht serves as a picnic area for Iraqi fishermen.

Some Iraqis told Reuters they believe the wreckage should be preserved for history. Others say that governments, which have not funded conservation efforts, are right to leave it to the river.

Another of Hussein’s superyachts, the 270-foot “Bashrah Breeze,” was built in 1981 for $25 million, or $100 million today, according to Yacht Harbor.

After Hussein’s execution in 2006, ownership of the boat changed hands a few times.

But in 2008, a Cayman Islands entity put the yacht up for sale, according to Boat International. NPR reported at the time that the boat — outfitted with gold cranes, swimming pools and a rocket-launching system — could sell for as much as $35 million.

A photo of the yacht’s presidential suite.

But it was not sold. Iraq intervened and courts decided that the “Bashrah Breeze” belonged to the government.

Since then, the yachts have briefly hosted researchers from Basra University on a sea voyage, as reported by Yacht Harbour. At the time, officials said it was in good condition and functioning properly.

In 2018, reports that “Bashrah Breeze” was to be turned into a hotel for pilots made international headlines. This was disputed by the former director of the Marine Science Center at Basra University, Ali Douabul, who told Boat International that the rumors were “completely wrong”.

“If they had used it for pilots, they would have ruined it in no time. It was never used as such. I got a very, very annoying phone call from the minister about that.”

Saddam Hussein’s superyacht ‘Bashrah Breeze’.
Stephane-Danna/AFP via Getty

It is unclear whether the boat will become a museum or be permanently moored somewhere.

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