Recently relaunched expedition cruise line Swan Hellenic will have to bid for its newest cruise ship, just weeks before its scheduled entry into service.
The SH Vega (IMO 9895252) which Helsinki Shipyard is now referring to simply as Hull No 517 is being sold “as is” and “where is” with bids due by Friday June 24th.
The SH Vega is a sister ship to the SH Minerva (IMO 9895240), which was delivered to the cruise line in late 2021 as part of an effort to restart the brand.
Swan Hellenic was considered one of the pioneers in expedition and educational travel. The sibling ships, along with a third large cruise ship still under construction, were financed by the new cruise line in association with Russian leasing company GTLK. The contracts call for the vessels to operate under long-term charters to Swan Hellenic.
Unfortunately for Swan Hellenic, in April 2022 the EU and the US extended their sanctions against Russian entities to include GTLK and its subsidiaries.
Swan Hellenic was one of several shipping companies, including Havila Voyages that found itself caught up in the sanctions (see following story).
Havila recently reported that it had resorted to the UK courts in an attempt to resolve its ownership problems. It was able to protect its cruise ships under construction from the shipyard acting without Havila’s permission.
Earlier this year Swan Hellenic announced that it would exercise the purchase options in its contracts for the cruise ships, but said that it was still seeking court authorization to complete the acquisitions. Like Havila they are barred from sending money to a sanctioned company.
“As a consequence of the sanctions announced in April, the leasing company GTLK Europe defaulted on the payments as the per newbuilding contract of NB 517 SH Vega. Moreover, all assets belonging to GTLK should be frozen in EU,” said Swan Hellenic in a statement, reporting that GTLK would be unable to take delivery of the ship.
Finnish shipbuilder Helsinki Shipyard a week ago released a tender notice inviting interested bidders to acquire the expedition cruise ship. “Helsinki Shipyard seeks to obtain the best fair market value for the vessel and reserves the right to reject any and all bids,” the company announced.
The shipyard attests to having become the sole owner of the cruise ship and said that it would select the winner and announce the new owner by July 1st with the delivery of the ship to be completed by July 19th.
Swan Hellenic said that that Helsinki Shipyard started the legal process of auctioning the newbuild under the terms of the shipbuilding contract. Swan Hellenic said that it was the “priority buyer” and that it had already submitted a bid for the ship, which it expected/hoped to put into operation on July 20th with an Arctic cruise from Trömso, Norway.
Swan Hellenic said that it was at an advanced stage of preparing the documents for transfer of the title on SH Vega, and that it was “ready to take full control over the vessel at the completion of the tender. Therefore, we expect there will be no change of plans in the scheduled cruises.”
Hellenic Shipyard reports that hull 517 is ready for delivery and that “upon completion of the sale and purchase, possession of the vessel shall be automatic and immediately deemed to be passed to the purchaser.”
Sea trials for the vessel were completed on May 20th.
Work was also continuing on the third cruise ship being built for Swan Hellenic. The shipyard reported that the last block for the vessel arrived in Helsinki on May 22nd. They plan to float out the ship, named SH Diana, later this summer. Delivery is expected by the end of 2022.
2022-built, Malta-flagged, 10,700 gt SH Vega is owned and managed by GTLK Europe Dac of Dublin, Ireland (Equasis Information). As of June 22nd it was moored in Helsinki, Finland.
2021-built, Malta-flagged, 10,617 gt SH Minerva is owned by STLC Europe Nine Leasing Ltd care of manager GTLK Europe DAC of Dublin, Ireland (Equasis Information). As of June 22nd it was moored in Fray Bentos, Uruguay, having arrived from Montevideo, Uruguay, on May 6th.
2023-built, Malta-flagged, 12,100 gt SH Diana is owned and managed by Swan Hellenic Cruises of Southampton, UK (Equasis information).