(Bloomberg) – The Crystal Symphony, a luxury cruise ship operated by financially troubled Genting Hong Kong Ltd., will be seized to pay off $1.2 million in unpaid fuel bills if it docks in Miami on Saturday, so that the vessel is diverted to the Bahamas after a US court issues an arrest warrant.
A U.S. marshal and court-appointed warden are ready to stop the ship if it arrives in port as scheduled Saturday morning in the Florida port city, according to J. Stephen Simms, the lead attorney representing Peninsula Petroleum Far East Pte. ltd. who said he was informed of the plan.
Peninsula Petroleum Far East has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to recover $4.6 million in total unpaid costs for bunker fuel it has delivered to three of Genting’s vessels since 2017. A judge of the US Federal District in Miami issued the arrest warrant for the Crystal Symphony Thursday, according to Simms and trade publication TradeWinds.
“The U.S. Marshal will be there with the arrest warrant if the ship shows up in Miami,” Simms said. “My good money is that he’s not landing in Miami, from what we’ve been told. Our client is determined to recover.
Genting Hong Kong became the world’s largest cruise operator to seek court assistance to protect its assets during the pandemic when it said on Wednesday it had filed with Bermuda’s Supreme Court to appoint provisional liquidators after having exhausted “all reasonable efforts” to negotiate with creditors and stakeholders. The company reported a record loss of $1.7 billion in May as the pandemic ravaged the cruise industry. Its German shipbuilding subsidiary, MV Werften, went bankrupt last week.
A representative for Crystal Cruises could not immediately be reached for comment, while a spokesperson for Genting Cruise Lines, which operates the Crystal Cruises brand, reported to Crystal Cruises. A Port of Miami representative could not be reached immediately after business hours.
Peninsula Petroleum said it delivered bunker fuel to another of the company’s ships, the Crystal Serenity, as recently as Jan. 17 in Miami, according to the lawsuit filed in Florida’s Southern District Court. He plans to seize the vessel and sell it to recoup the costs, Simms said.
Simms said Miami Port Authority told him Friday that the Crystal Symphony no longer plans to dock in Miami early Saturday morning as scheduled. Port authorities had confirmed the information with the liner’s pilots, he was told. The ship must now dock in Bimini in the Bahamas, where a US arrest warrant cannot be executed, Simms said. The ship’s passengers also confirmed the route change.
Crystal Symphony passenger Lisa Jimenez posted the sudden change on Facebook. “Does anyone care to guess why our ship, the Crystal Symphony, can no longer land in Miami? We were informed that we were being taken to Bimini, Bahamas, put on a ferry and taken to the United States that way. Hmmm.
London property lawyer John Dresner posted on Twitter to appeal to Mundy Cruising, the UK travel site he says booked his trip to the Bahamas, for help after the Bahamas itinerary changed . Passengers were told the ship would divert to Bimini, where Genting operates a resort and casino, and would be flown back to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, SeaTrade reported.
Passengers on the Crystal Symphony, which has a capacity of 848 berths, were on a 14-day voyage across the Caribbean, which started from Miami on January 8 and was due to return to port on January 22. Genting Malaysia Bhd, part of the Genting empire of companies owned by billionaire Lim Kok Thay, operates Resorts World Bimini Bahamas.
Crystal Cruises has suspended ocean and expedition voyages through April and halted river cruises through the end of May, according to a statement released earlier in the week. It offers refunds. The company’s three ships in service will complete their current voyages, with the last ending its voyage in Ushuaia, Argentina on February 4.
(Updates with details of the lawsuit in the seventh paragraph. A previous version corrected the spelling of the passenger’s name in the ninth paragraph.)
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