The Libyan-flagged crude oil tanker MT Badr that was seized by Bulgarian authorities in 2017, has been renamed and taken over by Bulgarian-based oil and gas contractor Bulgargeomin, the General National Maritime Transport Company of Libya (GNMTC) said in an update, stressing the transfer of ownership was illegal.
As informed, the ship left Burgas anchorage on December 28, 2018, with a new crew on board, with the sailing permission issued by the Bulgarian Marine Administration and provisional Panama-flag certificate. GNMTC said that the provisional flag was revoked by Panama’s Maritime Authority a day before the ship left the port, slamming the actions as illegal.
The sequence of events followed Badr’s seizure by Bulgarian border police on December 21, while at Burgas anchorage, and subsequent removal of the ship’s crew from the vessel.
The ship had been detained by the Port Authority of Burgas since November 2017 over an alleged unpaid mortgage to Bulgargeomin. The company denied the claims that it owed a USD 9.23 million mortgage on the crude oil carrier, saying the mortgage was falsified. In January 2018, the Bulgarian Supreme Court ordered the vessel’s release, however, the vessel remained in detention ever since.
Furthermore, according to the court documents, dated November 2018, the translation of which was provided by GNMTC to World Maritime News, the Supreme court cancelled the order for the seizure of the ship, and ordered Maritime Administration to compensate GNMTC damages for legal proceedings.
As disclosed, the court decided that BGM did not have corporate legal status that allows them to be a valid party in any court procedures, being a consortium of three companies Moran West Ltd, Moran Trade and Tectona Ltd.
Separately, press office of Bulgargeomin said in a statement that all the documents seeking damages and MT Badr as collateral were legitimate, in line with the contract from 2013 signed by Hristina Ivanova Stamova, liquidator of the state owned Bulgargeoin EAD and Bulgargeomin.
The company added that it was the only bidder in the subsequent official public auction for the sale of MT Badr, which was awarded to Bulgargeomin LTD in the presence of both sides of the case.
“As a legitimate owner of MT Badr by virtue of award of ownership certificate (Write of Ownership) on movable property (MT Badr) dated at August 30, 2018, entered into full legal force on September 15, 2018, and not subject to appeal, Bulgargeomin changed the flag and register as the new owner of the ship. On December 13, 2018, the Panamanian Maritime Authority issued a provisional registration certificate for MT Badr with a registered new owner “Bulgargeomin Ltd” DZZD, and a new name Bdin,” the statement reads.
GNMTC claims the letter of award was forged and that the order did not enter into valid legal force.
“The basic starting activities of the auction as well as some of the formalities and documents concerned were finally revoked by the District Court of Bourgas on 21. Dec 2018 which makes the whole auction invalid and the vessel need to be considered as not sold at all. Unfortunately, the judgment is dated on 21 but it was visible as text on 27 of December,” GNMTC further stressed.
On the other hand, GNMTC claims that the reflaging was based on “misleading documents” as Bulfarfeomin claimed it was the new owner, which GNMTC denies to be true. The company noted that the process is underway of returning the ship to Libyan flag registry.
“From 21 to 27 of December, all relevant authorities were informed of all the details and were officially informed about these illegal actions – the Prosecution, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Border Police, the Marine Administration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” GNMTC said, adding that the transfer of the vessel possession is being appealed.
The company added that an appeal process was also underway against Marine Administration’s sailing permission, which GNMTC described as “wrongful and unlawful.”
“We, Libyan Navigator Limited, as legitimate and valid ship-owner if the vessel Badr, will require and seek only one thing-the pure and real justice from the Bulgarian judicial system and the relevant informational judicial authorities and courts,” the company further noted in a statement.
World Maritime News Staff