Agents pick up the pieces of cruise collapse

Agents pick up the pieces of cruise collapse
By admin

Stricken cruise operator Classic International Cruises (CIC) was understood to have been performing well in Australia as its collapse begins to mirror that of Kumuka with the Australian industry picking up the pieces of an overseas failure.

Travel agents are facing credit card chargebacks and the difficult and time consuming task of rearranging the travel plans of thousands of customers following the cancellation yesterday of CIC Australia’s entire local season.

Some agents had clients booked on the five week voyage on Athena, due to depart Marseille for Perth on Monday.

CIC Australia and its administrators, Lawler Partners, yesterday conceded defeat in attempts to find a replacement for the 550-passenger Athena which was arrested in September after crew wages and fuel bills had not been paid.

The company is “no longer a going concern”, administrator Brad Tonks told Travel Today.

A creditors meeting will take place on Monday afternoon.

The Travel Compensation Fund (TCF), which has already received $40,000 worth of claims from consumers, is now bracing itself for a deluge of refund demands from the 5,307 passengers booked on Athena.

Early estimates suggest total claims could top $2 million.

Tonks said no viable alternative for Athena could be found despite offers of vessels from other cruise ship providers. Approaches to the WA Government for financial assistance were also unsuccessful, he said.

A full investigation into the financial affairs of the company will now take place, but Tonks revealed the local operation of the Portugal-based company appeared to be in good shape.

“I have not seen anything in my week as administrator to suggest that if the Athena was leaving on Monday (as planned), there would be any financial question marks over the season ahead,” he explained to Travel Today. “What I have seen so far, subject to it being tested, is of a company in Australia improving year on year. Bookings were ahead up to the point the Athena was arrested.

“The trouble seems to have arisen from the question of Athena’s availability.”

Tonks added that sales had fallen “behind the booking curve” since the ship was impounded which he acknowledged was understandable given the obvious reluctance “to book with a company that is in administration”.

The financial position appears to resemble that of Kumuka, which was understood to have performed well locally only to be dragged down by an affiliated overseas entity.

The Athena is just one of a number of vessels operated by CIC’s parent company to have been arrested.

The ownership structure of the ships appears complex with CIC comprising a group of companies using a common trading name and managed by Arcalia Shipping. CIC founder, George Potamianos died in May.

The owners of the ships “have a number of issues that are trying to address”, Tonks said.

A full investigation and report is likely to take three weeks to complete.

Tonks confirmed that CIC Australia managing director Grant Hunter is among the creditor’s after “committing funds to keep the business going”.

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