Havila Voyages (subsidiary of the Norwegian shipping company Havila Kystruten/part of Havila Shipping ASA) has been forced to delay the delivery of its 3rd cruiseferry - Havila Polaris. The vessel's first 4 voyages were canceled as it awaits a resolution of financing impacted by the EU sanctions placed on Russian institutions because of the war in Ukraine.
It is the latest in a series of delays/challenges the company has faced in the efforts to commence its Norwegian coastal sailings.
Bent Martini (Havila Voyages' CEO) said that in a year filled with challenges they could never have foreseen, they had learned to take such setbacks head-on.
“We have to wait until delivery can take place in line with the regulations. While we would like to start operating earlier, there is no alternative if we wish to avoid a further legal dispute. Therefore, we have not yet been able to bring Havila Polaris home.”
The problems for the company began in April 2022 as the sanctions against Russia/its financial institutions were extended. Havila had entered into an agreement with GTLK (Russia's largest leasing company) to build/operate the four 15500 GT-ton cruise ships under long-term charters.
Havila announced last week it had won a legal case in the UK (The High Court of Justice, Business and Property Courts of England and Wales, Commercial Court in London) that would settle the dispute over the debt/ownership of its boats. Havila Kystruten sought relief from the British court in June 2022 after it found itself in an impasse by which it could not buy the vessels from GTLK and receive a clear title.
In September, the company reached terms on a EUR370 million (USD390 M) refinancing of the fleet and for payments to Tersan shipyard (Turkey) for the completion of the 3rd and 4th units (Polaris and Pollux). In addition to completing the last 2 ferries, it was to be used for the redemption of existing debt.
The British court confirmed to meet the restrictions under the sanctions, that the payments will be made to a frozen bank account. GTLK opposed this solution but will gain access to the funds when sanctions permit. However, the shipping company cannot take delivery of Polaris pending clearance of a legal settlement to the blocked account.
Havila reported the building of the Polaris was complete and it now hoped to get clarification on the settlement in the next few weeks. The company noted the legal process was taking longer than its legal advisers and it had expected.
Havila Voyages had hoped to take immediate delivery of Havila Polaris and sail her from the Turkish shipyard to homeport Bergen (Norway) for final outfitting, hopefully making her December 29th maiden voyage. Based on the latest developments, the company canceled the round trips from Bergen through the end of January 2023. It set a deadline for the delivery of Polaris “a little over halfway through January” in order to start cruising from Bergen on February 11th, 2023.
Delivery of the 4th ship (Havila Pollux) was scheduled for no later than the end of March 2023. It is a series of long delays for the vessels, which originally were to be constructed in Spain by Astilleros Hijos de J Barreras. Following the financial collapse of the yard in 2019, it was agreed that the unfinished vessels would be towed to Turkey where the Tersan shipyard was building the other 2 units. Under the contract with Norway, they had originally been scheduled to start coastal voyages by January 2021 but required several delays prior to finally starting service at the end of the year. The company's first two ships are currently sailing on Norwegian coastal voyages.