Explore Varyag


A Chinese company Chong Lot Travel Agency bought the Soviet-made Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier VARYAG (Viking), lacking an engine and a rudder, from Ukraine for US$20 million in 1998, and wanted to tow it to Macau from the Black Sea and convert it into a floating casino.

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Chinese investors saw the Varyag as a giant pleasure craft. To some military analysts, it was an aircraft carrier which would weight 67,000-tonnes when completed. For many observers, it was a rusted heap of junk.

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In 1995, Macau's casino magnate Stanley Ho posed for a photograph on the doorstep of the White House with Wong Sing-wa which had a partnership with Chen Kai Kit. Chen was one of the key officials of Chong Lot Travel Agency and had good connections in Beijing.

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In June 2000 tug SUHAILI with the carrier in tow, sailed from Nikolayev for what was estimated to be a 60-day routine voyage via the Suez Canal.

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What did They Say

The cost of converting the Varyag is enormous. China's carrier capability is some years away.

Commodore Stephen Saunders - Jane's Fighting Ships

For God's sake, never gamble heavily and if you can avoid it, dont ever gamble.

Stanley Ho - Macau Casino King

The boldest gamblers might bet on the future of the Varyag

Gambling Magazine

America and Turkey were worried and tried to block the purchase because I was once a military man, but a person can't always choose his identity and background.

Xu Zengping - one of Chinluck's directors

We believe the main purpose for China buying the carrier is not to use it against Taiwan. But the possibility of other uses is still there.

Li Chieh - Navy Commander-in-chief

Strictly speaking, anything can be moved anywhere.

Andreas Tsavliris - Head of Tsavliris

We are a small party caught in between two bigger parties - China and Turkey.

Joop Timmermans - Head of ITC

Since the straits are not going to get bigger this platform should get smaller.

Ramazan Mirzaoglu - Turkish Maritime Affairs Minister

You know, we don't call it the Varyag any more. We've got a new name. We call it the Alcatraz.

Ray Aba Gatnam - Filipino Master of the Sandy Cape

I don't think that size of the vessel is the main reason why the Turkish authorities are not allowing to pass. I don't know what the actual reason is.

Oleh Firsov - Varyag's chief engineer at Ukraine's Nikolayev shipyard

Purchasing seems to be the only way for poor nations to develop aircraft carriers.

Capt. Zhang Zhaozhong - Chinese Navy's Top Aircraft Carrier Expert