Tradewind Voyages suspends new bookings

Recently formed sailing cruise line Tradewind Voyages has suspended new bookings and might have to cancel voyages because of sanctions-related disruption to its financing, the line’s owner, DIV Group, has said.

Tradewind Voyages’ sole vessel is the square-rigger Golden Horizon (IMO 9793545). It was scheduled to sail in the Mediterranean until October 2022 and then in the Caribbean for the 2022-23 winter season.

The company has a financial relationship with the German division of Russian state-owned VTB Bank. The banker has been hit hard by European and US sanctions.

Among other things, this means that VTB’s German subsidiary has been cut off from its Russian parent company.

German financial regulator BaFin has ruled that, due to EU sanctions, VTB’s Moscow headquarters can no longer give the German branch instructions or access its assets.

DIV Group said that it was currently taking financial advice and exploring its options. Meanwhile, Tradewind has paused voyage sales and has warned that “voyage cancellations are expected.” It said that all customer deposits for bookings were secure, being stored in a trust fund.

DIV chief executive Alan McGrory said that “while we have been working with VTB Germany, its headquarters are based in Russia where the bank has been sanctioned because of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. DIV Group continues to explore every option to rectify the issue. The decision to pause sale on voyages is a difficult one, but the right thing to do currently.”

The Golden Horizon has already had an interesting history. It is a new five-masted barque built by Brodosplit Shipyard for Star Clippers. However, after a series of complex disputes over the vessel’s construction and financing, Star Clippers dropped out of the project, and Brodosplit completed the vessel on its own. The shipyard then leased it to the newly-formed Tradewind Voyages, which began commercial operations in May 2021. In July 2021 it spent a week under arrest in Dover as part of the financial dispute.

The original CEO of Tradewind Voyages, Stuart Mcquaker, was taken on when the Suffolk-based company was set up to operate the world’s largest tall ship, following the legal dispute between Star Clippers, which originally ordered it, and the Croatian yard Brodosplit, which built it. Brodosplit and Tradewind Voyages have a linked majority-controlled structure, with certain individuals holding significant interests in both businesses. Mcquaker resigned from his post not long after, stating that he had ‘lost all confidence in the owner and his close team to deliver Golden Horizon to the standard required’.

The debut of Golden Horizon had also faced a number of difficulties because of the pandemic. A planned rehearsal voyage from Portsmouth along the south coast was cancelled when the UK government extended its Covid restrictions for England. Then a round-Britain tour had to be cancelled when the Scottish parliament banned cruise ships from calling at its ports. A rescheduled rehearsal trip was then cancelled because of a delay in delivery of furnishings. The ship finally set sail on July 7th 2021 from Portland, Dorset, to Falmouth, Fowey, Dartmouth and Poole (IMN July 21st 2021).

2019-built, Croatia-flagged, 8,784 gt Golden Horizon is owned by XB Ahts Hero Shipping Inc care of manager Brodosplit-Plovidba DOO of Split, Croatia.