Several briefcases full of money have been delivered to a towage company in Dubai, allegedly playing a part in helping a Saint James Shipping tanker deliver its cargo.
The 17,475-dwt chemical and product tanker Ariana (built 2016) suffered a main engine failure and was towed just outside the port of Mocha in Yemen, arriving there on or around 14 July.
An anchor-handling tug supply vessel, the Hercules, controlled by Dubai-based towage provider Swedish Management towed the stricken tanker to Mocha.
But no payment was received by Swedish Management for the towage services when the Ariana arrived outside the port area. TradeWinds understands the tanker remained attached to the tug with ropes while the towage firm awaited payment of two invoices.
A source told TradeWinds that Saint James claimed it had sent the money and said it would take legal action if the Ariana was not released immediately, while the towage firm threatened to seize the vessel if payment was not received within 12 hours.
The stalemate was soon broken by the arrival of cash-filled briefcases in Dubai.
None of the sources to whom TradeWinds spoke were able to identify the man who delivered the lucrative luggage.
The cash, believed to total around AED 2.5m ($680,735), covered much of what was owed by Saint James for towage of the Ariana to Mocha. Saint James denies making any payment in cash in this way.
A source with knowledge of the matter told TradeWinds it was “possible” that the towage payment was not made by the shipowner but by its charterer in order to expedite delivery of the Ariana’s gasoil cargo into Yemen, as part of a separate agreement with Saint James.
As TradeWinds has reported, the Ariana was laden and chartered by a firm believed to be SFI Marine Services of Dubai when it encountered engine difficulties in the Gulf of Aden.
Saint James maintains that the Ariana is at the centre of a dispute it has with its sub-manager, Global Radiance Shipping Management.
“The vessel Ariana was said to have been subject to a tug-of-war between two competing masters: the position is that owners lost confidence in the previous crew after a series of incidents and required to change them, which did not meet with the approval of the sub-managers Global Radiance Shipping Management [GRSM]. The crew have now been changed and fully paid off and repatriated, all at the expense of owners,” Saint James said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
“There are ongoing disputes with GRSM regarding other vessels in the fleet which has led to two other vessels being currently detained in Indian ports.
“We are hopeful these problems will be resolved soon and it remains the intention of Saint James and its principals that all seafarers shall receive all payments due to them: the difficulties and delays suffered by the seafarers are much regretted.”
Swedish Management is understood to have released the tanker from tow, but did not tow it into port.
Following the briefcases’ arrival at the Swedish Management office, a “small amount” remains outstanding for demurrage incurred after arrival at the port, a source said. Efforts are underway to recover the money, TradeWinds understands.
The Ariana will need another tow to get out of Mocha as repairs will be difficult to arrange in the war-zone port.
Neither SFI Marine Services nor Swedish Management responded to a TradeWinds request for comment.
This article has been updated to include a full statement on Saint James and to make clear the company's position on the matter.