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GIBRALTAR

World’s largest luxury sailing yacht seized in Gibraltar over debt claim

German shipbuilder demands final payment of €15 million for billionaire’s €400 million ‘superboat’

Jesús A. Cañas

The crew of Sailing Yacht A, the largest vessel of its kind in the world, received an unpleasant surprise when they stopped off in Gibraltar last week. What should have been a short stay to refuel has turned into an unwelcome stopover after authorities there impounded the vessel over a multi-million-euro dispute.

'Sailing Yatch A' in Danish waters.
'Sailing Yatch A' in Danish waters.EFE

German Naval Yards, which built the futuristic-looking, 143-meter-long vessel in Kiel out of steel, composite and carbon fiber, is claiming €15.29 million from its Bermuda-based owner, Valla Yachts Ltd.

The owner of the company, Russian multi-billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, was due to attend a hearing in the British Overseas Territory on Tuesday regarding the alleged outstanding debt. The vessel cost €400 million to build.

The towering Sailing Yacht A cost €400 million to build

Aware that Sailing Yacht A, with its distinctive three masts each taller than Big Ben, would be stopping in Gibraltar, the shipyard contacted a law firm there, Triay Stagnetto Neish, which filed a claim in court against the owner, charter company, and operator of the vessel for breach of contract.

Sources familiar with the case have told EL PAÍS that an official at Gibraltar’s Supreme Court upheld the complaint and ordered the Philippe Starck-designed vessel to be impounded.

Local newspaper the Gibraltar Chronicle has published a breakdown of the debt, which includes €9.8 million worth of work that should have been paid on January 27.

A spokesman for Sailing Yacht A told the Gibraltar Chronicle that it is not unusual for pending amounts to be paid after the construction of a vessel of this size and cost. He said he was surprised at the claim brought by German Naval Yards and pointed out that the owner paid the pending amount into an escrow account pending resolution of the dispute.

Launched in October, Sailing Yacht A had previously docked at the Norwegian port of Kristiansand and was headed to the Spanish port of Cartagena to undergo further work. The shipyard and the owner had already sought arbitration in a London court.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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