Arrested ship sold for $61m
THE E Whale ship, which has been in Cape Town for two years after being arrested because of debt, was sold on Monday to a foreign company for $61 million (R637m).
The ship, which has become part of the seascape in Table Bay since its arrest in April 2012, will be able to sail away as soon as the money has been paid in full, according to Andre Southey, deputy sheriff for Cape Town East.
Southey, who arrested the vessel, said yesterday the new owners, who had paid a deposit, had five days to pay the full amount.
“This has been a long one to sort out. We removed the certificates from the vessel when it was arrested, so it can’t leave South African waters.”
Once the money has been paid, the court will return the certificates and provide it with documents reflecting the new ownership.
The money from the sale of the ship will be paid into an account established by the Western Cape High Court. The court will appoint a referee to whom E Whale creditors lodge their claims. The referee will assess the validity of the claims and decide who gets paid how much and in what order.
The vessel was arrested after various creditors alerted the authorities in Cape Town. The first one was from a company in Brazil and another from a bank in Taiwan which lodged claim for the ship’s mortgage.
There was a provisional sale order made for the E Whale in 2012, but then the ship owner, Today Makes Tomorrow International Shipping, applied to a US court for insolvency protection, which was granted. This is given to companies
to protect their assets while they produce evidence to show that the company can return to profitability and pay off its debts.
Because the Taiwanese bank had an office in New York, the US court decision was binding and the bank was precluded from taking further steps. The sale was stalled and the ship’s crew were trapped on the vessel for more than a year. Maritime attorney Alan Goldberg, who was alerted over a year ago to the crew’s plight by the International Transport Workers’ Federation, a global union of transport workers’ unions, took on the case of trying to settle the crew’s wage dispute and to get them repatriated.
“The crew were in the dark and frustrated. Part of their wages were structured to be paid to the families, but this was not happening and they were sitting on board in limbo,” Goldberg said.
The company that owned the vessel is Taiwanese, and the 32 crew were from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Once the original crew had been repatriated, new crew were brought on board and were rotated every three months.