Seatrade Cruise News is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

River pioneer Pandaw ceases operations, a victim of the pandemic

It's the end of an era after 25 years of real adventure, Pandaw founder Paul Strachan said
Pandaw, a pioneering company that fielded 17 traditionally styled river vessels across Asia, is closing.

The company cited the continuing COVID-19 impact on international leisure travel, the closure of its destinations in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and India, and the critical political situation in Myanmar.

Lack of liquidity

There is 'no alternative due to the lack of financial liquidity and failure to find additional funding in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.'

Though Pandaw said forward bookings for a restart in 2022 remained strong thanks to great support from its loyal customers, the company lacks the funding to continue layups for its 17 vessels for another year and then essential refurbishments to restart operations. The timing, Pandaw said, remains 'highly uncertain, even assuming this may occur for the winter 2022/23 season.'

The company reported working tirelessly over the past year to find new investors or other forms of financing to carry things through, without success.

Founded in 1995, Pandaw pioneered river expeditions in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and India with its iconic boutique ships. Up until the pandemic, Pandaw said it had enjoyed a loyal following, high occupancy and year-on-year growing revenues, with positive financial results.

'A very sad moment'

'This is a very sad moment for me, my family, our crews and clients,' Pandaw founder Paul Strachan said. 'It marks the end of an era for all of us after 25 years of real adventure. We are truly sorry to disappoint our regular passengers who were so looking forward to making a trip after the lifting of travel restrictions. We are also heartbroken for our 300-plus crew members and shoreside personnel who have stood by Pandaw and were hoping to get going again next year.'

Historical design

Ted Scull, maritime historian, author and co-founder of, a site for small-ship aficionados, expressed shock and sadness about the demise. 

'There may be lots of riverboats in Southeast Asia and some in India, but Pandaw had a genuine heritage to justify the fleet's historical — that is, colonial — design because they used one of the original colonial Burmese Irrawaddy Flotilla vessels as their first river cruiser, and it formed the basis for the design of the newbuilds,' he said. 'Sailing aboard one presented a connection to the past while the other Southeast Asian river fleets do not have nor seek design connections to the original Burmese river fleet.'

Pandaw Charity to continue its work

A statement on the company's website said that despite the closure of Pandaw Cruises, the Pandaw Charity — which has done much to support people in Myanmar during the ongoing crisis there — will continue its work under the guidance of its trustees.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.