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Gov’t secures Legal Victory against Crew Members of Alfa Nero

UK Trade Union was awarded €2.7 Million Settlement for Crew Members Abandoned on Seized Superyacht

P. Nicola Byer, a high court judge has ruled in favour of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and has granted the crew members of the Alfa Nero Superyacht a €2.7 Million Settlement.

The crew members represented by the United Kingdom-based trade union, Nautilus International, and former Alfa Nero captain Christopher Malcom Lewis took the government to court seeking almost double what the court awarded them this week. The crew claimed compensation for promotions, gratuity, notice pay, leave pay, travel expenses, crew training costs, attorney’s fees, and other expenses, tallying up to approximately €7 million.

But this week, the court ruled that while the ship’s captain did make “necessary” moves to ensure the Alfa Nero remains seaworthy, he could not prove that he had the authority to increase the pay of crew members he hired after the government took ownership of the yacht. 

He also did not have the authority to promote them – namely Andreas Koster who was promoted as Relief Captain, Todd Rankin- Hurst to Chief Officer and Michael Eves to Chief Officer. “I therefore find that the promotions undertaken by Captain Lewis cannot stand and Koster, Hurst, Eves and Benjamin Clogg (who was also allegedly promoted to relieve Hurst as needed) are to be paid according to the rate for which they were paid at the time of termination by Burgess that is the period 17th March 2022 to 1st October 2022,” the judgement read. 

They could also not prove that the crew who remained on board were entitled to double pay. Justice Byer ruled that the members of the crew who remained on board after 1st October 2022 to 10th April 2023 did so “at their own risk.”

Because the government of Antigua and Barbuda is now the owner of the yacht they have assumed the liability of paying the crew. According to an inside source  the crew members agreed on receiving payment when the vessel was sold but then presented “inflated” figures for wages owed.

The government refused to accept the additional liability and therefore allowed the court to rule on the matter. “It’s a big win for the government,” they said. 

The Alfa Nero (photo by Wayne Mariette)

The Case Details

The case exclusively dealt with monies outstanding and due to crew members who were originally employed on the super yacht before its abandonment and those who remained on board and/or hired as part of the skeleton crew from March 2022 to April 2023 to keep it functional.

All crew members were terminated by Burgess Crew Services, a management company whose services had been engaged by the then owners Flying Dutchman to staff the vessel.

For the Nautilus Claim, the Court ruled that crew members terminated by Burgess on March 17, 2022, were entitled to specified sums, excluding Crew Training Fees and Cunningham Gratuity. Additionally, crew members who worked from March 18 to April 10, 2023, were granted payment at a specified monthly/daily rate. 

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After the termination of the crew by Burgess but prior to the Government’s seizure of the vessel, the previous owners, Flying Dutchman had made no arrangements or given any instructions for the maintenance and or staffing of the vessel.

On March 17, the former crew members brought a lawsuit against the superyacht and the enforcement of a Maritime Lien (claim against a ship for services rendered) held by the crew members. They sought an order to facilitate the seizure and sale of the vessel to facilitate the payment of €2.2 million outstanding wages and interest at the rate of 4%.

On 14th October, 2023 a second Admiralty Claim made by the non-unionized crew members, also sought payment for the amount of €439,494.40.00 plus costs and interest. On June 27 2023 both claims were consolidated.

Furthermore, all claimants were awarded prescribed costs on the final sums and statutory interest on the amounts due from the date of judgment until payment.

After a much-publicized arrival and subsequent abandonment by the owner of the yacht under international sanctions, the super yacht was left in the waters off Antigua and Barbuda. Its crew had been terminated in large part and the yacht was manned by a skeleton crew until the same was officially acquired by the Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority. 

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