A newspaper in Norway reports today that a pilot association seized the Independence of the Seas for non-payment of the association’s fees. The association petitioned a court in Norway to detain the cruise ship. A local bailiff served the arrest papers today.

The Independence of the Seas was in Alesund, Norway at the time of the legal action.

In the U.S., vessels can be seized for non-payment of provisions and services such as pilotage fees, crew member wages, food and fuel. The vendors and service providers have a maritime lien for the goods and services. Norway has a similar legal provision permitting the courts to "arrest" a vessel when Independence of the Seasit refuses to meet its financial obligations to creditors and satisfy the maritime lien. If the lien is not satisfied, the vessel can be sold at auction.  

"Vessel arrest" is a  common legal remedy to collect money from fly-by-night maritime owners and operators which try to avoid paying their debts to third parties. You can read about one such case here. I have heard of only one modern cruise ship operated by a top cruise line being arrested, and that was the Carnival Triumph several years ago

In Norway, as well as many other countries, local pilots are required to be at the helm of a ship that enters the local waters of the country. The shipping companies are required to pay the pilots who are more familiar with the local waters. 

The pilot association, Norwegian Coastal Administration (NCA) (Kystverket in Norwegian), issued a press release, stating that the pilot and security fees incurred by Royal Caribbean during several cruises last year have been owed since at least last October.  

The newspaper says that the lien was for  around NOK 600,000 which is approximately $100,000 U.S.

NCA says that it is owed substantial other fees from other cruise line and will be stepping up its collection efforts as the cruise ships return to Norway.

NCA says in its press release that non-payment or delayed payment from some cruise lines have been a major problem and the the association has been unable to convince the cruise lines to pay punctually. The association has been unable to convince certain companies with the worst payment history to meet their obligations voluntarily.

A representative of the association was quoted saying that sometimes it’s been many months, up to a year before the outstanding amounts have been paid. How can we operate?

The newspaper further states that once the arrest papers were served on the cruise ship, the captain contacted Royal Caribbean which paid the lien (as well as court costs and interest) within one hour. The cruise ship was then released by the local marshal and was free to sail. 

The Independence of the Seas was last in the news in April when its thrusters swamped a boat in St.Kitts involved in mooring operations, killing two local men handling the lines. 

May 23 2014 Update: The BBC is now covering the story.

  • Ryan Culross

    Wonder how Royal Caribbean would like it if their passengers waited a year to pay

  • stacey miller

    I wonder if it weren’t an internal paperwork error. I highly doubt Royal doesn’t pay, but if proper paperwork isn’t put forth in the right direction, how does one expect action?. No one truly knows why this happened. Perhaps they have an inept person dealing with bills/communications? For a highly visible company, this sort of “inaction” is unacceptable, but no one knows the underlying circumstances. I think the report is unfair without concrete dates who who’s hands the demands passed through. Someone should be held accountable.

  • Stacey:

    Don’t be naive. Cruise lines are well known to string vendors along for 90 – 120 days on the best of circumstances. A Norwegian pilot association is not going to release a false press release. This story has gone viral and Royal Caribbean’s communications department has said nothing. They are hoping the story isn’t picked up by a major news organization and the issue quickly blows over.

    Jim Walker

  • Ion Pop

    Common practice for major companies to delay pay ment as they can circulate the funds to other purposes’ not a fair practice, and it looks like they’ve found a client whom was not interested in their financial gimmicks!!!

  • Pepe Acosta

    You doubt Royal is not paying…?!?! Well you certainly never worked for them!!! I did and I can tell you that after cutting down salaries… Bonuses, getting rid of positions and privileges to its crew I definitely see these cheap miserable bastards not paying for what they have to… I hope this one costs them A LOT!!!!

  • Luis Freile

    It is normal for companies to play around with debts and this is actually not a big deal. The whole arrested word is being overused to make the article more attractive. Royal is a great company to work for and with very high standards. To be honest the job of pilots in places like alesund for Royal ships is none, they get on board and have a coffee or two. I’ve worked in the bridge of Royal ships and apart from the Panama canal there is nowhere the pilot is essential and/or needed.

  • Chris Cumming

    Well said Luis!! Trust you are well. The “problem” was sorted out in a matter of hours and the ship sailed on time.

  • Ian Moores

    Luis. You clearly have no concept as to the experience and training required to be a Marine Pilot. They are there for their local knowledge and to advise the Master and bridge team of the local area and conditions. To say that the ship doesn’t require Pilots is naive and the safest place for you to be is nowhere near a ship’s bridge.

  • Luis Freile

    Well Ian, i am actually a Pilot nowadays so yes I been in both sides the ship that arrives and the pilot that takes it through. For us pilots is a good business to have ships forced to have a pilot, but when it comes to cruise ship like NCl or Royal pilots are not really needed. Cargo ships yes. When it comes to cruise ships like royal or ncl the pilots dont do anything.