The owner of the Nova Star ferry on Wednesday filed a motion in federal court seeking the vessel’s release so it can be put to work elsewhere.

But a gaming company that owns 70 slot machines still aboard the vessel objected, saying the court should not let the Nova Star sail out of Portland Harbor before giving the company a chance to get its equipment off the ship.

A federal magistrate judge set a emergency hearing for 2:30 p.m. Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland to resolve the issue.

The vessel was seized by U.S. marshals on Oct. 30 and placed under arrest while claims seeking payments of more than $3 million were sorted out in court.

Singapore Technologies Marine, a Singapore shipbuilder that owns the Nova Star ferry, in the past week has been settling claims with companies that are owed money by the former ferry operator, Nova Star Cruises.

ST Marine said in court documents that it posted a $750,000 surety bond, an amount that substantially exceeds the sum of pending claims. Essentially, the owner wants to release the ship on bail.


The company says it costs $12,000 to $15,000 a day to maintain the ship and pay the wages for 21 crew members aboard. If the court released the ship from custody, the company says, it could charter the vessel for $32,500 per day.

“The owners have other parties interested in chartering the vessel, but of course they cannot charter her while she is under arrest,” wrote Edward MacColl, a Portland attorney representing ST Marine.

MacColl asked Magistrate Judge John Rich III for an emergency hearing to consider using the bond, rather than the ship itself, as security for unpaid claims.

Century Casinos Inc., based in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Wednesday filed a motion objecting to ST Marine’s request. The gaming company is now paying for the custodial costs of the Nova Star while the vessel is under arrest. The company owns several table games and 70 slot machines that remain on board the Nova Star. In its motion, the company said it sent personnel to Portland on Nov. 23 to remove the gaming equipment. However, when the staff arrived at the Portland waterfront, they discovered the ship was anchored in Portland Harbor and out of reach.

The ship remained anchored near Fort Gorges Wednesday afternoon because the city of Portland has refused to let it tie up at the city-owned Ocean Gateway terminal. ST Marine was in a dispute with the city because Nova Star Cruises owes Portland $235,000.

Century Casinos said it will try again on Monday to remove its equipment from the ship. In its motion, the company said it will object to the release of the Nova Star until there’s a hearing to determine its access to the vessel.


Under U.S. maritime law, the federal government can seize vessels if the operator owes money for goods and services deemed “maritime necessities.” Also under the law, the ship owner’s interest is subordinate to those with valid liens. If the ship is sold at auction, ST Marine would get whatever money is left over after all other bills are paid.

For two seasons the ferry service transported passengers between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Although the service received $41 million (Canadian) in subsidies from the province of Nova Scotia, its passenger numbers were disappointing. The province last month decided to go with another ferry operator for the 2016 season.

Companies that provided Nova Star Cruises with supplies, food and fuel had filed claims totaling more than $3 million with the court because they said the company had not paid them.

The claims included a $150,000 loan with the Portland Development Corp. and $85,000 for berthing fees for the city of Portland.

According to maritime law, when companies request a court order to arrest a ship, they are liable for paying the costs of maintaining the vessel while it’s in custody.

With claims being settled, there is a lot of confusion now about who is responsible for paying those costs, wrote Timothy Steigelman, an attorney for the city of Portland, on Wednesday in a motion in support of ST Marine’s request.

On Wednesday, the city said it had resolved its claim against the vessel.

Westbrook-based laundry service provider Pratt Abbott, which claims that Nova Star Cruises owes it $262,000, on Wednesday filed a motion in support of ST Marine’s request for replacing the ship with a bond and relieving the laundry service provider of any obligation to pay the costs for maintaining the ship.

The claims were for mostly the thousands of Pratt Abbott’s bed sheets and towels that were left aboard the ship at the time it was seized.

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