Second yacht detained in UK over financial and crew wages issues

Indian billionaire Vijay Vittal Mallya, owner of Kingfisher Beer’s Force One India, has had little pleasure of late from the two superyachts he is, or has been, associated with.

His 95m (312ft) Indian Empress went through a long dispute while docked in Malta and was sold for a reported €35m several weeks ago after he allegedly abandoned it. Since that sale, his second yacht, the 49.9m (164ft) Mangusta 165 yacht Force India, is understood by IBI to be under arrest in Southampton over disputes relating to crew wages and a claim from a Qatari-owned bank for €5.2m.

Last week legal exports acting for the UK’s Nautilus International union finally concluded a long battle to secure almost US$1m in unpaid wages for crew members from the superyacht Indian Empress. This large superyacht was reportedly sold to Saudi Arabia and is now named Neom.

Nautilus was representing the interests of crew on the 95m yacht, which was arrested in Malta in March this year after being abandoned by its owner in September 2017. The Nautilus legal team managed to secure an initial total of $615,000 in owed wages following discussions with the superyacht’s P&I club under the terms of the Maritime Labour Convention’s financial security provisions.

Following the judicial sale of the vessel to the company Sea Beauty Yachting for €35m in September, the union’s lawyers have been working with court authorities in Malta to ensure that crew are paid the remainder of their outstanding wages as part of the process to pay all the creditors – including suppliers, service providers and financiers – who were owed money by Mallya.

A total of $290,426 has been secured through these negotiations, with individual payments ranging between $1,300 to $55,000 and averaging $20,745.

Nautilus international organiser Danny McGowan commented: “We are glad that we were able to help our members in this way. It is so important that maritime professionals working onboard superyachts join Nautilus before they encounter this type of issue, as waiting until they have a problem normally means that it is too late.”

He added: “If the ship owner had a relationship with Nautilus, we are sure that we could have resolved the issue without resorting to arresting and selling the vessel. Again, we issue our call to superyacht owners, managers and other potential strategic partners to work with us in order to try and prevent situations escalating as they did here.”

Head of legal services, Charles Boyle, said he was pleased to see the end of the long-running case. “It has been a complicated process, which was not helped by the first sale falling through. However, it has demonstrated the importance of the Maritime Labour Convention’s financial security amendments, which meant that the P&I club Skuld paid up to four months’ wages owed to crew members earlier this year. Had those provisions not been there, the members would not have received this money at that stage and the value of the MLC is very clear.”

As far as Force India is concerned, Charles Boyle, the legal officer for Nautilus, indicted to IBI that a case involving payments to three crew members who were also Nautilus members has now been resolved. IBI understands the amount involved was in excess of £20,000.