Passengers on Chinese cruise ship left stranded in South Korea amid cash row

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 7:20pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 September, 2013, 2:59am

China's largest cruise ship, with about 2,300 passengers and crew on board, was held at South Korea's Jeju Island for more than 24 hours after a local court prevented it from leaving.

HNA Tourism, the Beijing-based operator of the Henna, said in a statement the liner had been barred by a court from sailing to Incheon on Friday after a claim was filed against it by shipping services firm Jiangsu Shagang International.

The 223-metre ship departed Tianjin on Wednesday for a six-day voyage with 1,659 passengers and 650 crew on board.

HNA Tourism said last night that it was co-ordinating the ship's departure with South Korean authorities, but the timing was undecided. A source said one passenger was a Hong Kong resident and three Australian.

Chen Junjie, a consul at the Chinese consulate in Jeju, told the Sunday Morning Post that the court had demanded HNA Tourism pay a deposit of three billion won (HK$21.4 million) for the ship to be allowed to leave, but the operator had not forwarded the sum. The amount of money and reasons for the claim pursued by Jiangsu Shagang against HNA Tourism - a subsidiary of Hainan Airlines - have not been disclosed.

Meanwhile, passengers were unable to leave the vessel as they had completed departure formalities and thus could not return through immigration, Chen said.

"We have already liaised with Korean authorities, and they will send people here to clear entry procedures for the passengers," Chen said. "The passengers will then be able to leave the ship and do sightseeing in Jeju."

The operator's statement said the company had reported the incident to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Tourism Administration. HNA Tourism said it was working on compensation packages for the passengers and reserved the right to seek damages from Jiangsu Shagang. Dubbed China's first luxury cruise liner by HNA Tourism and managed by Star Cruises, the Henna made its maiden voyage from Hainan to Halong Bay in Vietnam in January.

Additional reporting by Minnie Chan

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