In Hong Kong, a High Court judge has ordered the owner of a once-successful casino cruise ship to sell the vessel at auction and use the proceeds to honor the unpaid wages of its 46-member crew.
According to a report from the South China Morning Post, Justice Peter Ng Kar-Fai ruled that the 36-year-old New Imperial Star be evaluated by two court-appointed appraisers before being put on the block to pay the $490,000 in outstanding salaries.
The 12,586-tonne ship was bought by Arising International Holdings in late-2012 for just over $12.89 million before being registered in the island nation of Palau. It was then rented out for a monthly fee of around $258,000 and used to transport wealthy Chinese businessmen from Hong Kong into international waters where gambling was legal.
The newspaper reported that the vessel’s daily turnover once reached as high as $1.28 million with more than 400 passengers aboard but numbers dramatically fell to only a few dozen after 2015 due to a Beijing crackdown on corruption and the gambling sector.
Arising International Holdings, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands while being held by a Hong Kong businessman in partnership with a pool of investors, allegedly ran into financial difficulties some seven months ago and was unable to pay the crews’ salary. The workers, 20 of which are from Ukraine with the remainder from Myanmar and mainland China, were subsequently stranded on board with no money are airfare arrangements.
A later deal arranged by the International Transport Workers’ Federation saw 33 members of the crew repatriated and given advanced payments of $4,000 while 13 of the Ukrainians remained on board to maintain the ship’s operations.
The New Imperial Star, which is 423 feet long and 68 feet in width, is now being detained in Hong Kong waters off Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and is expected to fetch at least $2 million at auction even if sold for scrap.