Judge gives owner of ship held since August more time to pay bills

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2011, 12:00am

Chimbusco Pan Nation Petro-Chemical's effort to seek a forced sale of an Argentinian-owned container ship over unpaid fuel bills was postponed yesterday at the Court of First Instance.

The delay followed a move by lawyers for Maruba, the ship's owner, to halt the sale on Sunday night.

The Decurion, a 64,200 deadweight tonnes container ship, has been held in Hong Kong since August 20, when it was detained over outstanding invoices for fuel owed by Maruba, Argentina's largest privately owned shipping company.

Lawyers for Chimbusco - a subsidiary of PetroChina - had applied to sell the ship so that the proceeds could be used to pay the bills, which run into millions of US dollars.

The court was told that Chimbusco, together with other chandlery companies including marine fuel outfit Fratelli Cosulich, had been negotiating with Maruba for several months in an attempt to reach a settlement.

However, talks failed and Chimbusco's lawyers filed a notice of motion on February 7 seeking the sale of the ship.

Mr Justice Anselmo Reyes said Maruba's lawyers on Sunday filed an affidavit opposing the sale.

Voicing his concern about the 11th-hour nature of the action, the judge said the affidavit was 'vague' and showed 'absolutely no evidence' of what the ship's owner would 'put up for security'.

'It just seems to be like they are buying time,' the judge said.

He added that there were no supporting affidavits 'setting out what they were trying to do or the prospects of putting up security'.

'It's really unsatisfactory,' Reyes said of the situation.

It was pointed out the ship was worth more than the outstanding bills. Maruba's counsel, Edward Alder, had estimated the 1988-built ship to be worth US$14 million.

As a result, the judge agreed to adjourn the hearing until March 18 to give the Argentinian company seven days to arrange money to be paid into court or to provide some other security to cover the fuel bills and court costs. A further two days was given for lawyers for Chimbusco to respond.

The judge warned that failure to comply with these deadlines meant either side would be barred from giving evidence.