The last casino vessel to operate out of Hong Kong has become the 21st cruiseship victim of the Covid-19 pandemic after it was auctioned off for scrap at the end of March.

Cash buyers reportedly submitted the winning bid of $2.49m for the 15,800-gt cruiseship Starry Metropolis (built 1976) when tender offers were opened by officials at the High Court of Hong Kong, it has now emerged. The sealed-bid auction closed on 25 March,

The price equates to $270 per ldt based on the ship’s 9,250 ldt, according to IHS Markit data.

Asian demolition sources told TradeWinds that the ship was being prepared for its final voyage, which was likely to end at Alang.

Preparations included reflagging the ship, and obtaining classification certificates to cover its end-of-life voyage.

Crew wage issues

The Starry Metropolis was arrested in Hong Kong last October for unpaid crew wages.

It has been de-flagged by the Jamaica Register of Ships, while the Russian Maritime Registry of Shipping suspended its classification certificates in April 2020.

Owned by brass-plate entity Income China International, the ship was last operated by Metropolis Cruise, which less than a decade ago was the dominant player in the Asian city’s casino cruise trade with three ships.

Cruise brokers familiar with the Hong Kong casino cruise trade earlier told TradeWinds that Metropolis was the last holdout of an already dying business and the Covid-19 pandemic and Hong Kong’s cruiseship ban dealt it the final death knell.

Hong Kong’s casino cruise trade was once a handy place to sell older cruiseships for their trading values, while at the same time removing capacity from the more mainstream cruise sectors.

But over the past decade it was hit hard by a plethora of new casino developments in nearby Macau as well as China’s capital outflow restrictions to prevent money laundering.

Last November, Metropolis sold its other remaining ship, the 17,300-gt Metropolis (built 1972), to Indian ship breakers. That ship had already been laid up for several years before the pandemic hit.

A third vessel previously operated by the company, the chartered 18,500-gt Oriental Dragon (built 1972), moved to a Malaysian charterer in 2019 and is currently sitting out the pandemic at an anchor off Penang.