MIAMI BEACH 3 October – Windjammer Barefoot Cruises is on the brink of bankruptcy, with all cruises halted and crew stranded. After months of cash shortfalls as the company sought a rescue investor, Windjammer cancelled all sailings late last week. The company’s phone line now offers a recorded message referring to “trying times” and the website has gone offline.
The company’s tall-ship Polynesia is stranded in Aruba; the Legacy in Costa Rica; Yankee Clipper in Trinidad; and Mandalay in Panama. A high-ranking shipboard source told Fairplay that attempts are being made to find a financial solution in the coming days. In August, it was reported that private equity firm TAG Virgin Islands would come to the rescue, but TAG told the Miami Herald this week that it was only acting as an advisor for Miami investor Jerry Ceder. According to the Herald, Ceder has just filed suit against Windjammer, claiming the line is courting other investors behind his back, contrary to an agreement.
Owned by the trust of the Burke family, Windjammer has had a troubled history. Its tall-ship Fantome was lost in Hurricane Mitch in 1998, with all 31 crewmembers killed. Founder Captain Mike Burke was incapacitated by a stroke in 2005. His son Dan, who was appointed president in 2006, died of a drug overdose this March.
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MIAMI Beach 3 October – Loyal passengers of embattled Windjammer Barefoot Cruises are mobilising a cash drive to help feed and support crewmembers aboard stranded vessels. Communications with crew and solicitations for donations are being co-ordinated through the Windjammer Flotilla Message Board.
Crew have been left without company support aboard the Legacy, Yankee Clipper, Polynesia and Mandalay, which are stranded in ports throughout the Caribbean and Central America. Food, water and fuel are reportedly running short.
Doug Stevenson of the Seamen’s Church of New York & New Jersey told Fairplay that he has been in contact with the captain of the Polynesia and that his group will push to ensure “that if the owner doesn’t fulfil its obligations, that flag states and port states provide assistance to the crew.”
He stressed that “government authorities must get involved”, noting that the IMO and ILO both have recommended guidelines for the fair treatment of abandoned seafarers. Private supporters of stranded crew told the Miami Herald that nearly $14,000 has been raised so far. A PayPal account has been set up to provide donations for Windjammer crew at http://www.jammerbabe.com/Windjammer_Relief.htm.