A legal Odyssey around a formerly Russian-financed passenger ship is heading towards a happy end.
Expedition cruise operator Swan Hellenic Cruises announced on Monday that after four months of talks, it has found a formula that allows it to take over the 10,600-gt SH Minerva (built 2021).
This was one of three newbuildings that Swan Hellenic had financed with GTLK before the Ukraine war led to Western sanctions against the Russian lessor.
Swan Hellenic, which relaunched operations in 2020, has already managed to lay its hands on its two other polar class cruise ships — the 10,700-gt SH Vega (built 2022) and 12,100-gt SH Diana (built 2023).
Overcoming sanctions-related obstacles with the SH Vega and the SH Diana was relatively easy.
Even though completed, the two vessels had yet to be handed over to GTLK and therefore remained under the ownership of Helsinki Shipyard, which put them up for auction after the Russian company failed to take delivery of them.
Swan Hellenic prevailed in the auctions for both ships, as TradeWinds reported.
The situation with the SH Minerva, however, was more complicated.
Delivered at the end of 2021, shortly before the outbreak of the Ukraine war, the 152-berth ship had already been operating with Swan Hellenic under its GTLK lease when the invasion began.
The legal deadlock created by the sanctions caused the ship to be laid up on the Uruguay River, where it remains to this day.
Swan Hellenic said that by the time measures against Russia kicked in, it had already exercised a purchase option provided for under the leasing agreement.
What was missing, however, was a legal way to transfer the funds to GTLK, a sanctioned entity.
That way has now been found, according to a Swan Hellenic statement on 30 January.
Following negotiations with its “Irish counsels”, it said a “legal mechanism” was identified “that allows it [Swan Hellenic] to take ownership of SH Minerva by acquiring the GTLK subsidiary company which is currently the registered owner of the vessel”.
Cyprus-based Swan Hellenic did not provide details of that formula but said it has already submitted an application with the Central Bank of Ireland to approve it.
That approval, however, is not expected to be forthcoming for two to three weeks, which means the company has had to scrap plans to reactivate the SH Vega on 7 February to embark on a 31-night cruise of Antarctica.
Pending regulatory approval, the cruise had to be cancelled and reactivation of the ship postponed.