Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Polar Star Expeditions Closes

by Kevin Griffin - The Cruise Examiner

Last Tuesday, Polar Star Expeditions’ parent company Karlsen Shipping Co Ltd announced in Halifax that it has ceased trading. At the request of the Toronto Dominion Bank, which is owed about $4.6 million, PricewaterhouseCoopers have now been appointed as receivers to the assets of Karlsen Shipping.

A further $750,000 is said to be owed to Norway’s Sparebank. The company’s chief asset is the 100-berth icebreaker Polar Star, which it purchased from the Swedish Government in 2000 and has been operating as an expedition cruise ship since 2001.

Polar Star has not had an easy time of it of late. Last year, the vessel having lost one of its engines, had to operate part of the season on just one.

Then, on January 31 this year she hit an uncharted rock at Detaille Island in the Antarctic and breached her outer hull. Three ships that were in the vicinity evacuated her passengers and part of her crew but she lost the rest of her 2010/11 Antarctic season and had to go to Las Palmas for repairs.

Now, Spanish authorities have seized the ship against a $1.4 million bill for the repairs in Las Palmas, where she remains. And the ship’s twenty-seven crew, under the leadership of Cap Jacek Lisiecki, have set up a web site to try to raise funds to repatriate them. They are said to be owed $250,000 in back wages, as they have not been paid for three months.

Meanwhile, operators such as Oceanwide and Quark have been making offers to book passengers who had previously been reserved on the Polar Star to cruise in Spitsbergen this summer. It is now unclear as to whether any charter can still be made, even by the receivers, with Spitsbergen Travel, who normally charter her during the summer months.