Rijeka - The legendary ship of Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the Galeb, which was built in Italy, will be given by concession to private companies. The undisputed leader of the Socialist Yugoslavia used this ship for his travels abroad, having welcomed on board hundreds of state leaders and government officials for over 30 years. The decision was made by the mayor of Fiume (Rijeka) Vojko Obersnel. The city bought the boat in 2009, which at that time had almost been reduced to a wreck. According to the mayor, this is a reasonable and balanced decision that will provide the Croatian city with a new museum which will be set in the cabins used by Tito and in some sections of the engine room, for a total of 1,500 m2. The other 3,000 m2 will be probably put to a commercial use, like restaurants and bars. The concession will be 30 years long. The estimated value is a little more than 10 million euros and the bids will be announced in September. The ship will be docked probably on the breakwater of the Fiume port, near the old cranes that were recently restored in order to preserve their historical value.
The ship was built by Ansaldo di Genova. In 1938, it was put in service as a banana boat by the Italian Merchant Navy. At the beginning of the Second World War, it was transformed into an auxiliary cruiser and was used as an escort on various missions. In 1943, it was captured by the Germans to be used as a minelayer. In November 1944, it was hit by an Allied air raid and was sunk right at Fiume. Then, it was recovered and rebuilt by the Yugoslavs, who rechristened it as Galeb (Seagull). First, it was used as a training ship for the Navy officers. Soon after that, in 1952, it became Tito’s official ship, with a crew of almost 200 people. It became famous in 1953, in the first of the many trips abroad of the founder of the Non Aligned Movement, when the Yugoslav President travelled to London to meet with Queen Elizabeth II.
From then until the death of Tito in 1980, the presidential ship travelled almost 100,000 miles, visiting eighteen countries in Europe, Asia and Africa and hosting on board 102 heads of state and government officials, among others Nikita Khrushchev, the American President J. F Kennedy and the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. It is estimated that Tito spent 308 days on board. In the 90s, after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the ship was docked and abandoned in a Montenegro port. In May 2006, the ship was about to be sold as junk, but the Zagreb government stopped the demolition by proclaiming the ship as cultural heritage.