Norwegian authorities in Ålesund seized one of the world’s largest cruise ships on Thursday as part of a claim for unpaid fees. The Independence of the Seas did not live up to its name when it was placed under arrest until the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line paid the NOK 600,000 (USD 101,000) it owed in piloting and security fees from 2013.
The fees were related to several sailings into Norwegian harbours, and should have been paid by mid-October last year, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The Norwegian Coastal Administration (Kystverket) said chasing outstanding payments is a major problem which uses significant resources.
“As a rule, we get the money at the right time,” said maritime safety director Arve Dimmen. “But now, we’re missing NOK 6 to 7 million from cruise ships that have not paid their bills from the last season.” That implies more arrests may be made in the weeks ahead, as the number of cruise calls in Norway increases.
In a statement on its website, the administration noted delayed payments from certain cruise lines has been a problem. “There’s a lot of work for us in following up these cases,” Dimmen said. “The ships are often based overseas, and it is dependent on the season when they visit our area. It’s an advantage for us that we can make use of the maritime liens regime. Then we can secure the payment.”
The 339-metre-long, 15-deck Independence of the Seas has a passenger capacity of 3,600 and was the world’s largest cruise ship when it was launched in 2008. Royal Caribbean Cruises was founded in 1968 by three Norwegian shipping lines. The Norwegian-American company is currently the second-largest cruise line globally, with 40 ships in its fleet.
Cruise lines usually hire agents to take care of administrative tasks connected to harbour visits, including paying authorities like the coastal administration for their services. While the administration told NRK it had stepped up efforts to contact the cruise lines with the poorest payment histories directly, they had still only recovered about half of the fees owed.
The law of maritime liens means a claim can be made against a vessel for non-payment of goods or services. The administration was required to seek a court order to enact the claim. The captain of the Independence of the Seas contacted Royal Caribbean Cruises as soon as the ship was placed under arrest, and the debt was repaid about an hour later. The ship was then released.