Mumbai: Sunken Ark Deck floatel's owners looking for a new boat
Lessee who was running the facility wants to claim damages and re-open business in another vessel
It looks like the owners of Ark Deck Bar are not going to wait around for the ship, Avior, on which the floatel operated, to be refloated. Manoj Mirchandani, lawyer for the owners, Harmeet Sawhney and Samyukta Singh, said they were already scouting around for another boat on which to re-launch operations.
Mirchandani said, "As of now it looks unlikely that the remains of the ship will be made seaworthy. The owners of the vessel, M/s Sea Glimpse Investment (Pvt) Ltd, may even consider scrapping it. In view of that, my clients are already in the process of looking for other options to restart their floatel hospitality venture, which would commence sometime post-monsoon."
Sawhney and Singh had been renting the ship for a monthly rent of Rs 5 lakh. Mirchandani said, "My clients are contemplating claiming damages from the owners of the vessel as they have spent over a crore on renovation, repairs, setting up furniture and fixtures to convert it into a floatel. They have also spent a lot on obtaining various licences, on legal charges and salary to staff. Hence, they have every right to claim damages, which otherwise they could have recovered over the next five years of operations. Now, everything is gone within five months."
Mirchandani added, "The owners of the Avior will still get compensated by the insurance company, but my clients have invested heavily and have lost everything. It won't be fair on the part of the owners to not support my client financially. A legal notice may be sent to the owners soon, a probability that cannot be ruled out." Arpan Rajput, a senior maritime lawyer, said, "It is not so easy for the owners of Ark Deck Bar to take the exit route by claiming damages, as the vessel was very much being used by them at the time of the incident. They are equally responsible. Also, care should be taken that more damage is not caused to the submerged vessel or its surroundings during bad weather conditions."
Mirchandani said Ark Deck Bar was never under the control of his clients. "The master and crew of the vessel are employees of the owners of Avior and only the kitchen staff and DJ were hired by Ark Deck Bar owners. They were, however, paying salary to the crew and master as decided by the owners. So, even at the time of the incident [which was due to bad weather] the vessel was very much in control of the first master, who is an employee of the owner."
When asked if the agreement that his clients had entered into had any liability clauses, Mirchandani said, "The breach clauses for my clients were if they violated the licence agreement, or conducted any performance without appropriate permissions or took the vessel to a non-permitted location in sea, the onus was completely on my clients."
An official from Maharashtra Maritime Board, who did not wished to be identified, said, "During such mishaps, people tend to shed their responsibility and claim innocence to avoid consequences. We will be going through the agreement to understand the clauses that both parties have agreed upon and any further course of action depends on that."
Interestingly, a shipping expert claimed that he had received a proposal from a ship scrap vendor to buy Avior for Rs 35 lakh in the condition it is at present and even pay off the salvage operator. When asked why, the expert said the scrap vendor would get the papers changed to his name, especially the insurance cover, and would want to avail of the insurance money.
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