The Bombay High Court has given special permission for an arrested cruise ship to leave Mumbai temporarily in order to get out of the way of Cyclone Nisarga.
The vessel, the Karnika (ex name Pacific Jewel), is India’s first premium cruise ship. She made her first domestic voyage in April 2019 and homeported in Dubai for the 2019 summer season. After returning to Mumbai in September, she was scheduled to cruise India’s coastline for six months, but her itinerary was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Karnika was arrested in mid-March due to a $4 million financial dispute between her owners. In April, operator Jalesh Cruises was said to be in talks with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to use Karnika temporarily as a floating quarantine facility. Her crew has been gradually returning home in batches, and there are now just 63 seafarers on board.
This week, Jalesh and the Bombay Port Trust both petitioned the Bombay High Court to permit Karnika to be moved to a safe location. The port and the operator raised the possibility that the vessel could be damaged in the storm and could cause damage to port infrastructure or other vessels.
“I am of the view that MV Karnika and its crew and others must not be imperiled and must be permitted to leave for safer waters, as may be suggested by the port trust in consultation with the master of the vessel,” court Justice AK Menon ruled. Menon imposed two conditions: the ship must return after the storm, and her top officers have to leave their passports in the custody of the port.
AIS data show that on Tuesday, the Karnika left Mumbai and headed north, away from the storm.
Despite the vessel arrest and the challenges of COVID-19, Jalesh says that it still hopes to restart operations this September with enhanced health protocols.
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