DELICATE BALANCE: AG office assigns attorney to Crystal Cruises Crisis to manage interaction and protect Bahamian reputation

DELICATE BALANCE: AG office assigns attorney to Crystal Cruises Crisis to manage interaction and protect Bahamian reputation
Crystal Cruises ships.

Maritime attorney from AG’s office to manage situation

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government is trying to strike a delicate balance in its dealings with the seizure of two Crystal Cruises ships in Bahamian waters last week, said Transport Minister JoBeth Coleby-Davis yesterday.

The attorney general’s office will provide legal guidance to the country’s maritime agencies and consult with the ship’s owners on the issue, according to Attorney General Ryan Pinder.

The Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity were arrested and anchored off Freeport, Grand Bahama, on Friday.

Both vessels diverted to The Bahamas in an attempt to avoid an arrest warrant issued by a Florida judge to have the ships seized once entering United States waters for the non-payment of $4.6 million in fuel in a lawsuit filed by Peninsula Petroleum Far East.

However, a Supreme Court order, obtained by local legal representatives of the Singapore-based fuel supplier, was handed down last week to have the vessels detained by the Bahamian admiralty marshal under maritime law.

Transport and Housing Minister JoBeth Coleby-Davis.

Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet, Coleby-Davis explained that because the vessels are registered as flag ships under the Bahamas Maritime Authority, they had every right to come to the country.

“It’s a delicate balance that has to be placed because they [are] one of our registered ships; all of their certifications are still in good staging, their insurance remains to be in good standing, so we have to balance Bahamas Maritime Authority’s relationships with our ships as well as warrants that [have] been placed on assets,” she explained.

She added: “…It’s a normal procedure… There’s nothing unusual that has happened. It’s just a process we have to go through.”

In an interview with Eyewitness News, the attorney general labeled the matter a “debtor-creditor issue” in which Crystal Cruises is indebted to the fuel company, adding that he has no concerns about the issue.

He advised that a maritime attorney from the Office of the Attorney General has been assigned to work with the Bahamas Maritime Authority.

He noted that his office will also “consult with the owner of the vessel to get a complete understanding of the circumstances”.

“The unique aspect of this is that it is a Bahamian flag vessel in Bahamian waters and the arresting marshal is the acting director of the port department, which is clearly a Bahamian agency,” Pinder told Eyewitness News.

Attorney General Ryan Pinder.

“…Even though everything acts independently of each other in this, because there’s so much involvement with respect to The Bahamas, the Attorney General’s Office thought it wise to at least provide its advice as needed to the different agencies in order for us to properly manage the interaction and really the reputation issues that will come about.”

Crystal Cruises and its parent company, Genting Hong Kong, have 14 days to respond to the action filed in the Supreme Court on February 1, 2022.

The arrest of the vessels effectively takes the ships out of commercial operation and holds them pending resolution of the issue.

The attorney general said this is a standard course of action under maritime law and commercial disputes. 

“There’s nothing really nefarious here, other than it’s two cruise ships that carry the Bahamian flag,” he said.

“It’s a private clause of action, it’s consistent with maritime law and we are just doing what we can to help prospective agencies.”

Pinder added: “Presumably, as soon as the two parties can work their differences out, the ships will be released.

“This isn’t The Bahamas government taking an autonomous decision to arrest those vessels; this is purely mechanical under maritime law.”

About Sloan Smith

Sloan Smith is a senior digital reporter at Eyewitness News, covering a diverse range of beats, from politics and crime to environment and human interest. In 2018, Sloan received a nomination for the “Leslie Higgs Feature Writer of The Year Award” from The Bahamas Press Club for her work with Eyewitness News.