Genting Hong Kong cruise ships with unpaid bills seized: Reports

The Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity were arrested on Feb 4 in Freeport in the Bahamas. PHOTO: CRYSTALCRUISES/INSTAGRAM

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Two Crystal Cruises ships operating under a Genting Hong Kong unit have been seized in the Bahamas after a fuel supplier sought their arrest for US$4.6 million (S$6.2 million) in unpaid bills, according to a crew video and the Cruise Law News website.

The Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity were arrested late last Friday night (Feb 4) in Freeport in the Bahamas, according to Cruise Law News, a site run by Mr Jim Walker, a maritime lawyer based in Florida who cited crew members on both ships for the information.

The luxury cruise ships were anchored in Freeport on Feb 5, Bloomberg data showed.

A Florida judge issued an arrest warrant for the Crystal Symphony last month after fuel supplier Peninsula Petroleum Far East filed a lawsuit against Crystal Cruises and sought the vessel's arrest for US$4.6 million in unpaid fuel bills dating back to 2017, according to Mr J. Stephen Simms, the lead attorney representing the supplier, and court records.

Mr Simms said a United States marshal was ready to seize the ship if it docked in the US. The suit also detailed unpaid bills for fuel delivered to the Crystal Serenity.

Voyages for both Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity ended last month and there are currently no guests onboard, Crystal Cruises said in statement to Bloomberg News.

Crew members have been paid all wages and the company is meeting its contractual obligations to crew, it added. Crystal Cruises said it was unable to comment on pending legal matters.

The Bahamian port authority, Mr Simms and the US Department of Justice that oversees marshals could not immediately be reached for comment outside of regular operating hours. Genting Hong Kong referred questions about Crystal Cruises to the US operations.

Genting Hong Kong became the biggest cruise operator worldwide to seek court assistance to safeguard its assets during the pandemic when it filed with the Supreme Court of Bermuda on Jan 18 to appoint provisional liquidators after exhausting "all reasonable efforts" to negotiate with creditors and stakeholders.

The company reported a record loss of US$1.7 billion in May last year as the pandemic ravaged the cruising industry. Its German shipbuilding subsidiary, MV Werften, has become insolvent.

The Crystal Symphony diverted to the Bahamas instead of ending its cruise in Miami on Jan 22 and ferried passengers to Fort Lauderdale a day later. The Crystal Serenity also ended its voyage early and diverted to the Bahamas, according to passengers who posted on social media.

It is unclear which authority seized the ships in the Bahamas. It is possible there was a separate action filed in the Bahamas involving the ships' mortgage holders that triggered the seizure of the vessels, Mr Walker said.

A video posted on Crew Centre, a forum for cruise industry workers, purportedly captured the Crystal Symphony's captain announcing to crew that the liner "has been placed under arrest by the local authorities over some unpaid bills".

Crew movements and sign-offs from the ship have not been impacted by the vessel's detainment, according to the announcement.

Meanwhile, Dream Cruises Holding, an indirect non-wholly owned unit of Genting Hong Kong, will continue to operate its fleet in Asia, it said in a statement over the weekend.

New Dream Cruises bookings have been suspended until further notice, while Hong Kong sailings of the Genting Dream cruise liner have been cancelled through Feb 16 due to the territory's strict social distancing regulations currently in place, the company said.

Dream Cruises' vessel World Dream is one of two cruise ships running cruises to nowhere in Singapore. The other is Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas.

Dream Cruises also filed a winding up petition on Jan 27 to the Bermuda Court and is seeking to appoint the same provisional liquidators named in Genting Hong Kong's application.

The company reiterated in a statement to Bloomberg News that the appointments of joint provisional liquidators over Genting Hong Kong and Dream Cruises "are not to liquidate the companies but to identify potential remediation plans and to facilitate the restructuring of the group".

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