The 95-meter M/Y Indian
Empress was impounded in Malta on Tuesday, March 6, after its owner, Vijay
Mallya, failed to pay crew more than $1 million in wages.
More than 40 crew have gone unpaid since September, when
Mallya abandoned the vessel, and are owed anywhere between $6,250 to more than
$92,000, according to a
press release by maritime professionals union Nautilus International. Around
this time, Mallya was reportedly arrested in London over allegations that he
supported the Force India Formula One team he co-owns with money-laundered
So far, Nautilus International has secured a milestone
payment of four month’s unpaid compensation totaling more than $615,000 for its
members by using the Maritime Labor Convention, 2006 provisions. They are
currently working to recover an additional $330,000 on behalf of Nautilus
members by enforcing a maritime lien on the arrested superyacht for outstanding
wages and other costs over and above the amounts covered by the MLC. The
Guardian reports that non-union crewmembers are owed hundreds of thousands
“Our members on board gave their employer and the shipowner
multiple opportunities to pay monthly wages, displaying a loyalty and restraint
greater than many would show in such situations,” says Danny McGowan, the
union’s strategic organizer, in the press release. “These opportunities were
regularly ignored by the owner, leaving us with no option but to take the case
to the courts.”
Nautilus’s actions have achieved a first for the superyacht
industry — enforcing the financial security provisions of the Maritime Labor
“Our ability to enforce [this] shows the vital importance of
the international measure and ‘safety net’ amendments that were introduced to
protect crew members,” added Charles Boyle, Nautilus International’s director
of legal services, in the press release.
Mallya is reportedly out on bail and living in a
multi-million pound mansion in Britain pending extradition proceedings
initiated by India. According to Reuters,
his defense team claims he’s being used as a scapegoat by Indian politicians
to deflect public anger at bad debts by state-owned banks.
According to the Times of Malta, M/Y Indian Empress has now been ordered to pay more than €68,000 to two marine service agencies. Malta’s The First Hall of the Civil Court has reportedly upheld the claims of Agence Maritime Tropezienne (€25,829) and Luise Associates Riviera & Co. S.r.l. (€42,502) relative to services rendered to Indian Empress. "The yacht’s legal representatives have admitted the applicants’ claims," the Times reports.
Currently, the vessel is facing a maritime lien over a million-dollar unpaid wage bill and a €651,000 unpaid fuel bill. The former owner, ex-politician Vijay Mallya — who was also a co-owner of the Force India Formula One team — is still in the UK pending an extradition request attempting to force him to return to India so he can face charges for his financial crimes, which include money laundering and fraud.