Bahamian authorities seized two of Crystal Cruises’ ships in waters off of Freeport on Friday, Acting Port Controller Lieutenant Commander Berne Wright told Guardian Business, after a Florida court ordered the arrest of the company’s vessels when the company was sued by its fuel supplier over unpaid fuel bills last month.
The litigation began after it was announced in early January that Crystal’s parent company Genting Hong Kong went bankrupt.
Wright said the two ships were arrested around 9 p.m on Friday evening after authorities received a writ of summons from the Supreme Court of The Bahamas to seize the vessels.
He said the vessels were seized through a joint effort between the Port Department, the Office of the Attorney General and the Bahamas Maritime Authority, adding that the Port Department’s deputy marshal in Freeport spearheaded the seizure of the ships.
According to Wright, the vessels are registered in The Bahamas.
Minister of Transport and Housing Jobeth Coleby-Davis also confirmed the seizure, comparing the collaboration between US and Bahamian authorities to extradition requests.
Wright said the action is not new to the Port Department and explained that Bahamian authorities have two other ships not related to this incident arrested in Freeport.
“This is not the first time that we have arrested a vessel,” said Wright.
“Once I received that information, the authorities in Grand Bahama would have been activated to affect the arrest. The vessels would remain under arrest until otherwise instructed by the Supreme Court.”
He explained that while the ships are being held by Bahamian authorities, nonessential crew are being repatriated to their countries of origin.
In a statement sent to this paper by a Crystal Cruises spokesperson, the company stated it could not comment on the pending legal matters.
The company noted, however, that the officers and crew aboard the ships are “being well cared for and staying in single accommodations, some of which are guest staterooms”.
“We are making sure they are comfortable and able to enjoy the various amenities on board,” the statement noted.
“Crew members have been paid all wages due and we are meeting and exceeding all contractual obligations. Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony’s voyages ended last month and there are no guests onboard. Following recent developments of its parent company, Genting Hong Kong, Crystal has paused its operations for its Ocean and Expedition Cruises through April 29, 2022 and for River cruises through May 2022.”
Court documents list 13 invoices for fuel to Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises ships, with payments totaling almost $3.4 million due to Peninsula Petroleum between August 11 and January 17.
The complaint filed by Peninsula explained: “In accordance with supplemental Rule C for certain admiralty and maritime claims of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Admiralty Rule C, you are directed to arrest the defendant vessel (Crystal Symphony), her boats, tackle, apparel and furniture, engines and appurtenances and to detain the same in your custody pending further order of the court.”
Crystal Cruises made headlines in The Bahamas last year after it announced that it would carry out an all-Bahamas cruise beginning in Nassau. Crystal was the first cruise line to announce that it would home port in The Bahamas. Its announcement was followed by Royal Caribbean International’s move to home port in Nassau to begin sailing again, while US ports remained closed due to COVID-19. Crystal Cruises also made big investments in several Family Islands to accommodate its home porting initiative.
Crystal Cruises announced in August that it planned to keep far-flung Bahamian islands on its itineraries into 2022. The cruise line’s itinerary was to begin out of New York for an all-Bahamas cruise with stops in San Salvador, Great Exuma and Bimini. Its cruise departing from Miami was also expected to have an all-Bahamas itinerary with stops in Bimini, Nassau, San Salvador, Great Exuma and Long Island.