ECONOMY

Royal Olympia Cruises liner is detained in South Africa

DURBAN (AFP) – More than 400 passengers about to embark on a Greek-owned liner for a cruise to Mozambique were stranded in the South African port city of Durban yesterday after the ship was detained following legal moves against the owners for bad debts. The Olympia Countess was barred from leaving Durban harbor after at least two creditor companies filed papers in a local court for orders of arrest against the ship and its Greek owners, Royal Olympia Cruises, a lawyer representing the creditors said. «The ship has been arrested in the Durban harbor this morning,» said Krish Reddy, who works for a Durban-based law firm. Reddy did not give details of the dispute, or the names of his clients, but the Durban-based newspaper The Mercury reported that it concerned a mortgage held on two other ships owned by subsidiaries of Royal Olympia Cruises. «At this stage the amount involved is around $350,000 (277,000 euros),» Reddy told AFP. Allan Foggitt, marketing director of the South African-based Starlight Cruises, which has been chartering the Olympia Countess for two years, said that 423 passengers bound for Barra Lodge in northern Mozambique had to be turned away. «Needless to say, we are terribly disappointed. This is a matter between the ship’s company and its creditors… We are the innocent bystanders in this dispute,» Foggitt said. Foggitt said he hoped the dispute would be resolved before Monday, when the ship was due to sail on another cruise. He added that passengers would have the choice of being refunded or being offered cruises at a later stage. The Mercury reported that representatives of the International Transport Federation would also board the ship to investigate claims from several of the Greek crew that they had not been paid for several months. It was not the first time Royal Olympia Cruises has found itself in hot water, with the company struggling to avoid liquidation of its assets, The Mercury alleged. Two of the company’s latest ships, Olympia Voyager and Olympia Explorer, have already been detained in terms of Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws in the United States and are restricted to US waters, it said. «German banks that are owed $230 million in mortgages on the two ships are seeking to have them arrested should the ships move to a non-US port,» the paper said. A third Olympic cruise ship, the Triton, made news on New Year’s Day when passengers were forced to transfer from the cruise ship to a car ferry in mid-cruise. The Triton faced arrest if it docked in Athens, the next port of call. Instead, the passengers were taken to Venice for a five-hour bus ride to Genoa to catch their flights home. Royal Olympia Cruises has recorded losses of $50 million for the past two years.