Next February, Ivaran Lines will be introducing the Americana, its new 19,500-ton passenger freighter, on 46-to 48-day sailings from New York to South America. The ship is currently under construction at Hyundai Heavy Industries, South Korea.

What makes the ship so unusual is its cruise ship-like facilities and services. Instead of the eight- to 12-passengers freighters usually carry, the Americana will carry 108 passengers in first class outside and inside accommodations and offer all the comforts of a modern cruise ship.

The large cabins are equipped with color television sets and telephones for worldwide satellite dialing. Public rooms include a lounge, bar, library and a single-seating dining room featuring international cuisine. Facilities include slot machines, swimming pool, whirlpool, health club, gift shop and hairdresser. There will also be a doctor on board.

Light entertainment and shore excursions will also be offered.

The resemblance to cruise ships ends here, however. According to the line, there will be none of the fast pace, glitter and regimented activities of cruise ships. Instead, the Americana will offer the leisurely pace of romantic freighter travel...

Ports of call include Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Miami, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Rio Grande, Santos, Bahia, Fortaleza, Norfolk, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

The ship will fly the Norwegian flag and officers and crew will be Norwegian. A South American staff will serve passengers. (Freighter passengers tend to be affluent retirees, individuals and couples in the higher age groups.)

Rates range from $7,200 per person for a single inside cabin to $9,000 per person for outside double cabins; $10,500 for deluxe suites; and $16,800 for the owner's suite.

Ivaran ships have been around since the 1920's and the company is quoted on the Oslo stock exchange. It also carries passengers on two of its other freighters, both sailing between the United States and South America.

According to sources, only an estimated 1,500 passengers are currently carried on freighters and there is commonly a waiting list to sail on these ships. The Americana is definitely a boost to this segment of the cruise industry.

The U.S.-South America East Coast trade provides a stable cargo flow in both directions according to Florida Shipper the potential of the region indicates that South America will become an increasingly stronger trading partner.