About 70 former staff at Macao Dragon, the high-speed-ferry operator which collapsed last year, should finally receive HK$7.4 million in unpaid wages about a year after the company went into liquidation.
Admiralty Court judge Mr Justice Anselmo Reyes yesterday ordered the payment of the wages out of the proceeds from the sale of the operator's two ships. The vessels, Shen Long and Tian Long, were sold in March for HK$80 million each. A Hong Kong shipbroker said the ferries were acquired by a mainland operator which planned to operate them in Hainan .
Ting Kam-yuen, head of the Hong Kong branch of the International Transport Workers Federation, said the former employees would get their wages 'in a month or two'. They include ferry captains, engineers, seamen and cabin attendants.
Nigel Binnersley, a partner in Blank Rome who is acting on behalf of the crew, said: 'We hope to get the money out within Ting's time frame.'
The workers were last paid in August 2011, just weeks before Macao Dragon went into liquidation on September 15.
Proceeds from the sale of the vessels were paid into a special bank account. Under Admiralty law, the court's chief bailiff will be the first to be paid from the proceeds to recover the cost of arresting, maintaining and selling the two ferries. After some legal costs have been reimbursed the former Macao Dragon staff will be next in line to receive payment.
Reyes said the workers were also entitled to 2 per cent interest on their unpaid wages.
Other creditors, including the Macau branch of the Bank of China which advanced two HK$160 million loans to Macao Dragon to finance the purchase of the ferries, will share the remainder of the sale proceeds.
The amount of the outstanding loans owed to the Bank of China by Macao Dragon has yet to be confirmed by the Admiralty Court. But legal sources said the Bank of China was likely to receive less than half of what it was owed.
The amount, in HK dollars, Macao Ferry was estimated to owe trade creditors when it folded last year