Cruise ship with 700 passengers and crew onboard diverts to the Bahamas to avoid arrest warrant

A cruise ship with 700 souls aboard has diverted from its scheduled port call in Miami to flee from a warrant to impound the vessel over $1.2 million in unpaid fuel bills.

The Crystal Symphony, which was scheduled to return to Miami on Saturday to end a 14-day Caribbean cruise, instead veered off to Bimini in the Bahamas, where it docked on Saturday night. 

Elio Pace, a British musician performing on board the Crystal Symphony, told that there were about 300 passengers aboard the ship as well as 400 crew, a staffing ratio that reflects the struggle of cruise lines to attract passengers in the pandemic.

Now, the passengers are scrambling to re-book their onward travel after their arrival in south Florida was delayed by at least a day,  and the crew are facing the grim prospect of losing their jobs as the cruise line’s parent company faces liquidation.

‘Every one of these people are trying to reschedule their flights,’ said Pace, who said that the crew had done their best to keep guests informed and comfortable as the bizarre events unfolded. ‘There’s no panic, there’s no tantrums going on, they’re taking it in their stride.’

The Crystal Symphony is seen docked in Bimini on Saturday night after diverting from its scheduled call in Miami to avoid an arrest warrant under admiralty law over unpaid fuel bills of $1.2 million

Elio Pace, a British musician performing on board the Crystal Symphony, told that there are currently about 300 passengers aboard the ship, which can carry up to 900, as well as 400 crew

Instead of returning to Miami as scheduled, the cruise ship diverted to Bimini, where passengers will take a ferry to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday morning

The Crystal Symphony left Miami on January 8 for its two-week cruise, and everything unfolded smoothly until Wednesday, when Crystal Cruises unexpectedly announced that it was suspending operations at least through April.

Malaysian tycoon Lim Kok Thay controls the Genting Group

Crystal Cruises’ parent organization, Genting Hong Kong, had filed to wind up the company, warning in the filing that it will ‘imminently be unable to pay its debts as they fall due.’

‘This was an extremely difficult decision but a prudent one given the current business environment and recent developments with our parent company, Genting Hong Kong,’ said Jack Anderson, Crystal’s president, in a statement on the decision to cease all cruises. 

Pace told that the news stunned the passengers and crew, but that operations continued as normal, and that he even delivered his musical performance as scheduled. 

‘That was quite extraordinary, to be in a position to have to perform to people, with them knowing the cruise line has gone into liquidation,’ he said. ‘This was a shock to everybody when we got the announcement on Wednesday.’

Nearly concurrent with Genting Hong Kong’s filing to unwind, fuel supplier Peninsula Petroleum Far East filed a complaint in Florida seeking an arrest warrant for the Crystal Symphony under US admiralty law.

Crystal Cruises’ parent organization, Genting Hong Kong, has filed to wind up the company, warning in the filing that it will ‘imminently be unable to pay its debts as they fall due’

Peninsula alleged that Genting’s subsidiaries had reneged on a total of $4.6 million in fuel payments, with $1.2 million alone attributed to the Crystal Symphony.

On Friday, Judge Darrin Gayles of the U.S. District Court in Southern Florida approved the warrant, and the Crystal Symphony now faces impoundment if it enters any US port. 

Instead of continuing to Miami as planned, the ship veered east to Bimini. The Genting Group owns Resorts World Bimini, and the Crystal Symphony is flagged in the Bahamas.

The diversion came as a shock to passengers, said Pace, who boarded the ship on Tuesday and had expected to continue delivering guest performances through next month.

Now, the passengers are waiting overnight for a ferry to arrive at 8.30am on Saturday, to take them on a two-hour trip to Fort Lauderdale. 

‘For me it’s a headache, but for the crew, for the staff, the brilliant staff of this gorgeous luxury liner, I feel more sorry for them,’ Pace said. ‘I’m put out, but they’ve lost their jobs for the foreseeable future.’

Pace put the blame for the fiasco squarely on the Genting Group, which is part of a bigger conglomerate that also includes Genting Malaysia and Genting Singapore.

The company, controlled by Malaysian tycoon Lim Kok Thay, has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Pace questioned why the ownership group couldn’t pay what they owed or face the consequences in Miami, in order to avoid the massive inconvenience to their guests.

‘They can afford to look after these people,’ he said. ‘On a human level, why do people behave like this, why can’t they help?’

‘I can’t understand why these multi-billionaires don’t care, they just don’t care,’ he added.  

The Genting Group owns the Resorts World leisure park chain as well as 30 casinos across the U.K. 

The company’s finances were tipped into ruin after the German government this week rejected its request to draw a $88 million backstop facility related to the MV Werften shipyard in northeastern Germany.

German officials blamed Genting for refusing to contribute 10 percent to a $678 million bailout plan that would protect 1,900 jobs at the shipyard.

The shipyard filed for bankruptcy, and the events triggered the insolvency application Monday of another shipyard it owns in Germany, Lloyd-Werft in Bremerhaven.

Genting reported a $238 million net loss for the period ending June 2021, as compared to a $742.6 loss million for the same period in 2020. 

Genting Hong Kong reportedly halted payments on debts of almost $3.4 billion in 2020. 

‘The Company and the Group have no access to any further liquidity under any of Group’s debt documents and the Company’s available cash balances are expected to run out on or around end of January 2022 according to the Company’s cashflow forecasts,’ Genting said in its Wednesday filing. 

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