By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Concerns were voiced yesterday over the fate of 900 crew members due to uncertainty over who will cover the costs for two Bahamas-flagged cruise ships arrested in Freeport.
Stephen Turnquest, the Callenders & Company partner who obtained Supreme Court-approved arrest warrants for both the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, told Tribune Business “the last thing The Bahamas wants is for a humanitarian crisis to erupt” if no agreement is reached on who pays the bills while the vessels are detained.
The attorney, who represents Peninsula Petroleum Far East, a Singapore-based shipping fuel supplier claiming to be owed some $2.1m for outstanding bunkers provided to the Crystal Cruises vessels, said funds would be needed to provide both crews - who have remained on-board the vessels - with sufficient food until the dispute is resolved.
Fuel will also be required to operate the ships’ air conditioning, pumps and other systems in the interim, while garbage, sewerage and sludge disposal must also be addressed. Mr Turnquest said it was presently unclear as to where the funding to cover these activities will come from, with a local shipping agent - who he did not name - said to be in talks with the ships’ owner over the issue.
Pointing out that it was “in everyone’s interests that this be resolved as quickly as possible”, he added that the costs associated with repatriating the Crystal vessels’ crew could be “substantial” with the volume of COVID-19 tests to comply with Bahamian and international travel protocols along reaching into the thousands of dollars. Matters could “reach crisis point very quickly and become a nightmarish situation” if left to fester.
Confirming that both vessels are currently “anchored in the port of Freeport”, and are in the custody of the Bahamian admiralty marshall after Supreme Court arrest warrants were served on Friday, Mr Turnquest said Crystal Cruises and its immediate parent, Genting Hong Kong, have 14 days to respond by “entering an appearance” to the action he filed on February 1, 2022.
“What usually happens is that the stakeholders seek to resolve outstanding issues. There have been some discussions, but where that will lead is another matter,” he added. “The hope is that this matter will be resolved before it goes very much further.
“The crew is still on the ships. If the owners decide that they’re in it for the long haul, and are going to fight it, the shipping agent will take charge of repatriation. I understand there are many Indians, there are many Filipinos. You are dealing with a big repatriation distribution, and the costs could be substantial.”
Mr Turnquest was hired by Peninsula Petroleum, with a brief to initiate local proceedings obtain arrest warrants for both Crystal vessels, after they ducked the issuance of similar detention orders by the south Florida district federal court by remaining in Bahamian waters and outside US jurisdiction.
He added that Crystal Cruises and its Genting parent should thus have been aware that the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony were likely to face legal proceedings, and arrest warrants, in whichever jurisdiction they were in and set funds aside to both pay off the alleged debts and maintain both ships and their crews until the dispute was resolved.
With the “status of the financial relationship” between Crystal/Genting and the Bahamian port agent unresolved, Mr Turnquest said: “There are a lot of fundamental questions that we don’t know the answers to....
“These are Bahamian ships that are Bahamian flagged. They are registered here. The last thing the Government wants is for a humanitarian crisis to erupt. It’s a fluid situation, and it is in everyone’s interest for the matter to get resolved as soon as possible, but it’s too early to tell how.
“There will be a lot of moving parts to this. I’d like to think that, in the short-term, the shipping agent will have the means to hold the line, hold the fort so that things do not get out of hand and get worse. It would be in Genting’s interests to make the shipping agent whole. Things will get incredibly complex if they don’t.”
Critical is Crystal/Genting’s willingness to provide the necessary funds to the shipping agent appointed by the admiralty marshall, with Mr Turnquest adding that the situation needed to “quickly turn on a dime to minimise the inconvenience to all and sundry including the crew”.
Financial strife at its immediate parent caused Crystal Cruises, which last year pioneered home porting in The Bahamas alongside Royal Caribbean, to suspend operations until at least April 29, 2022. This was to allow management to assess the company’s business, and determine its future options, with its parent set to run out of cash by end-January.
Genting Hong Kong’s woes, and Peninsula Petroleum’s securing of US arrest warrants, saw both Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony cut their last Caribbean cruises short by calling at Bimini, where all passengers were forced to disembark and either fly back to south Florida or take the Balearia Express ferry.
That move proved only a temporary respite for the two Crystal vessels as Mr Turnquest subsequently issued legal proceedings in The Bahamas on the fuel supplier’s behalf, with the cruise line’s treatment of passengers provoking numerous complaints and costing it much goodwill.
Bimini was also selected as the disembarkation point because of the presence of Crystal’s affiliate, Resorts World Bimini, whose dock it used. Resorts World is owned by a separate Genting company, and is said to be unaffected by the bankruptcy of its fellow Hong Kong subsidiary, which owned the conglomerate’s cruise business.
With Crystal’s reputation and that of its ships on the line, especially if they seek to resume sailing, Mr Turnquest voiced hope that the outstanding debt was “chump change” to a conglomerate of Genting’s size and would be settled quickly.
“Often creditors don’t take any pleasure in taking action,” he said. “The ball is in their [Genting’s] court. Let’s see what they do. From the crew to the creditors, everybody will be happy in the short-term if they fund what needs to be done.”
Michael Maura, Nassau Cruise Port’s top executive, told Tribune Business that Crystal’s decision to suspend sailing will have minimal impact as it had just three calls planned for the Bahamian capital that were all due to happen in the 2022 first quarter.
TimesUp 1 year, 3 months ago
Given our rich pirate heritage and present governing party can we just keep them? You wanted hotels in Freeport! They even come with crew!
KapunkleUp 1 year, 3 months ago
lol best comment I read in a long time!
tribanon 1 year, 3 months ago
The corrupt and now bankrupt Crystal/Genting group based in Hong Kong that owns the “arrested” ships is known to be affiliated with certain senior members of the Chinese Communist Party. Like all the other cruise ship enterprises, it is well known to abusively treat its onboard crew as slave labour.
Sickened 1 year, 3 months ago
The Filipinos should just make some sails out of all of those bed sheets and head for home. I'll donate a bunch of fishing line so they can eat. Can someone donate some fresh water and rain water tanks?
regrolli 1 year, 3 months ago
The learned Stephen Turnquest of Callenders & Co. should revisit the documents his firm submitted to the Court where I think he'll find that his Firm signed a legal Undertaking to assume all the Admiralty Marshall's fees as a condition of the arrest. Sorry to say Mr. Turnquest, Callenders & Co. are on the hook; better get talking to your client to get some $ quick fast and directly. And while you're at it, stick to lawyering and get out of the PR business; the twisting of the truth to influence public opinion by lawyers and law firms to sell their agenda is becoming a global scourge. Be part of the solution, not the problem.
John 1 year, 3 months ago
Firstly, why seize TWO SHIPS valued hundreds of millions for a bill that totals around $4 Million? Is it not general practice to seize only sufficient assets to comfortably cover the debt? If that is the case, then the proper thing to do is load all non-essential staff and crew onto the second ship and allow them to sail to Florida where the crew can be set free. Unless the crew is not from Florida or somewhere in easy access. But if the parent company is seriously bankrupt, a solution to this saga may be long coming and will involve a lot of expense to keep two ships maintained and serviced. Just to beginning of the covid financial fallout.
Emilio26 1 year, 3 months ago
Tribanon do you realize that if the cruise ships stop then your friends at the Straw Market and that own businesses won't make any money?
ThisIsOurs 1 year, 3 months ago
Maybe its time they found a foundation that's more stable. We cannot plan for generations immemorial to depend on cruise ships to sell made in china tshirts to
tribanon 1 year, 3 months ago
The Tribune took down my post suggesting that all bills for this cruise ship fiasco be sent to Michael Maura and his friends. I think they were upset about my protesting that the Bahamas should have never allowed itself to become the Liberia of the Caribbean by flagging so many of these monstrous, filthy, pathogen laden and polluting cruise ships that are literally destroying our marine environment.
Besides, the ruthlessly greedy "all-for-me" business model of the owners and operators of these behemoth disgusting floating hotels virtually assures cruise ship visitors will never have much left in their pockets to contribute to our economy. Successive corrupt political officials pandering to these corrupt cruise line enterprises is the very reason why our downtown Nassau and downtown Freeport areas became such ghastly looking grave yards long before the pandemic.
If our government, the BNT, etc. truly cared about our marine environment, all of these cruise ships would have long ago been declared persona non grata in our territorial waters.
DWW 1 year, 3 months ago
I don't understand why this is news??? the bill is not a responsibility of anyone except the parties involved and the lawfirms acting on their behalf. silly to bring this into public light unless it is to serve some ulterior motive.
Baha10 1 year, 3 months ago
Arresting these Vessels could well entail I’ll thought out Legal Advice, as if the Cruise Owning Parent is bust, there could well be no money forthcoming, unless the Banks that hold First Priority Mortgages agree to pay off debts to protect their security, but why do this if you are a secured priority lender and risk not being able to recoup?!?
Hope the Law Firm gave proper advice and acted on clear instructions based thereon, as the $2.1mil. debt could pale in comparison to the Costs of funding these Arrests until release and could well serve as Legal Precedent in the Shipping World as to “what NOT to do”!
tribanon 1 year, 3 months ago
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
tribanon 1 year, 3 months ago
Sign in to comment
Or login with: