The 95m Indian Empress has been impounded in Malta in a dispute over the owner’s failure to pay four months' worth of crew wages. Local reports suggest that the yacht was boarded by port officials and prevented from leaving Malta on Tuesday as part of the crew’s legal action to recover the unpaid wages. Marine Traffic confirms that the yacht is currently in Malta.
Representing some of the affected crewmembers, the maritime union Nautilus International told SuperyachtNews it secured ‘milestone’ payment last week and has been instrumental in having the vessel arrested as it makes further attempts to recover an additional $330,000 in unpaid wages and other costs on behalf of its members on board.
The union is claiming that more than 40 crew have not been paid since September, when the owner of the vessel, allegedly Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, abandoned the Isle of Man-flagged superyacht after he was arrested in the UK following the Indian government’s request for his extradition.
During the case, Nautilus has made use of the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) to secure the payment of four months of unpaid wages, totalling more than $615,000. In line with the financial security amendments of the convention, these payments were made to the crew by the Norwegian protection and indemnity insurance specialist Skuld last week.
Now a maritime lien seeking the payment of further outstanding wages and other costs over and above the amounts covered by the MLC financial security provisions has been enforced on the vessel. The lien gives the crew claim over the vessel to the value of the debt owed.
“Our members on board have given their employer and the ship owner multiple opportunities to pay monthly wages, displaying loyalty and restraint greater than many would show in such situations,” says Danny McGowan, Nautilus’ strategic organiser. “These opportunities were regularly ignored by the owner, leaving us with no option but to take the case to the courts.”
Chris Boyle, director of legal services at Nautilus, adds that the union is increasingly involved with such cases. The Indian Empress dispute follows a similar case that came to a positive conclusion in November 2017, when the union was successful in securing more than €140,000 in owed wages for nine crewmembers from a 46m yacht. SuperyachtNews covered the case here.
“Our ability to enforce the financial security provisions of the MLC – for the first time in the superyacht industry – shows the vital importance of this international measure and the ‘safety net’ amendments which were introduced to protect crewmembers,” Boyle explains. To read more about the MLC’s financial security amendment on SuperyachtNews, click here.
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