A £300million superyacht, once owned by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and where John Terry honeymooned, is at the centre of an extraordinary row between its billionaire owner and it crew.
The 115 metre mega boat Pelorus is currently docked in the port of Tivat where it has been impounded by the Montenegro authorities.
Its international crew say that they have been sacked and are owed four months’ wages.
However, in the international row, its owner Samathur Li Kin Kan, a Hong Kong based tycoon, accuses them of taking advantage of the Covid pandemic and trying to charge him ‘extortionate’ fees to run the boat in a practise he called ‘price gouging’.
The billionaire owner of the Pelorus (pictured) is engaged in an international row with the boat’s crew who claim he sacked them and owes them four months’ wages
The Pelorus, launched in 2003 after being commissioned by a Saudi businessman, was promptly bought by Russian oligarch Abramovich who had just taken over Chelsea.
Two years later, when the club won the Premier League title, he lent it for a fortnight to the club’s star players John Terry and Frank Lampard as a reward.
Now, port authorities in the Bay of Kotor are carrying out an inspection while a case against its owner has been filed in the country’s Commercial court.
It is understood that the crew are in talks with lawyers at Nautilus which represents the interests of seafarers.
One of the international crew told Mailonline: ‘Things started to unravel on Christmas Eve last year when most of the 35 crew were dismissed and just 10 left on board which is below its minimum manning.
‘Two weeks ago we were told that the vessel was to be left to rot and run out of fuel and that the 10 of us had lost our jobs while being owed over four months’ salary.
Owner Samathur Li Kin Kan, a Hong Kong based tycoon, (pictured) has accused the boat crew of taking advantage of the Covid pandemic and trying to charge him ‘extortionate’ fees to run the boat
‘It is unheard of for this to happen with a yacht such as this which has been owned only by Royalty and billionaires.
‘The owner feels we are objects that can be picked up and thrown away and we understand that there are a string of debts all over Europe that he owes as well as in Montenegro.’
But in a statement released through the law firm Taylor Wessing, Mr Li Kin Kan hit back.
He said: ‘The Pelorus has been fully funded throughout the period of ownership by my company, and I consider that it still has more than sufficient funding today.
‘However, we have for some years fallen victim to, in my view, significant overcharging by parties dealing with different aspects of the yacht, and this position has worsened substantially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with those parties taking advantage of the increasingly difficult circumstances, to increase charges to a level which I believe constitutes price gouging.
‘In addition, I believe the parties involved have sought to unjustifiably and unfairly discredit the running of the Pelorus such that in the current circumstances it cannot reasonably attract and retain sufficiently qualified crew for its minimum manning, without the company accepting their unreasonable and unjustifiable costs.
‘Given this, in order to try to redress the situation, and the actions of the unethical parties involved, I have had no choice but to engage with The Montenegro Government to protect our ownership interest, and the interests of all other bona fide creditors who had been prejudiced by such actions.
‘I believe that justice will be served in due course. I have experience of owning many yachts over decades, and it is clear to me that in the current circumstances within the yachting industry, it is extremely difficult for owners to protect themselves from what I believe to be extortions and price gouging in relation to many aspects of yacht ownership.
The Pelorus (pictured in 2004), launched in 2003 after being commissioned by a Saudi businessman, was promptly bought by Russian oligarch Abramovich who had just taken over Chelsea
‘This is particularly the case at present, when owners are unable to easily access their yachts given the ongoing pandemic and related travelling restrictions; sometimes the only option is to seek legal recourse.’
It is understood that Mr Li Kin Kan took over the running of the ship from his father, Samuel Tak Lee, a property billionaire who owns vast swathes of central London.
According to port authorities in Tivat, the yacht is now undergoing an inspection by the Navigation Safety Inspectorate.
Drasko Loncar, a spokesman for the Montenegro Minisitry of Capital Investments, said: ‘The inspection acted on the report of entities that have claims against the yacht.
‘A record was made within a legal deadline and sent to the captain. According to the law a deadline of 10 days has been set for the correction of irregularities.
‘The procedure in the Commercial court of law is conduct by persons who have claims against the owner of the company.’
He said they were awaiting a statement from the Captain of the yacht. It is a spectacular fall from grace for The Pelorus, once the pride and joy of Abramovich.
When Chelsea won the Premier League title, Abramovich (right) lent it for a fortnight to the club’s star players John Terry (left) and Frank Lampard (centre) as a reward
He added a second helipad, kept a crew of 44 and would use it to cruise the western Mediterranean in the summer and travel down through the Red Sea in winter.
In 2009 its ownership transferred to Abramovich’s wife Irina in a divorce settlement and she sold it for $300 million to Dreamworks boss David Geffen in 2011.
He sold it to Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the son of the founder of the United Arab Emirtes and its last recorded sale was to Mr Tak Lee in 2016.
That summer it played host to a party featuring MC Hammer and David Guetta. Its current owner Mr Li Kin Kan is also owner of the world’s most expensive car, the Rolls Royce Sweptail, worth $12.8 million.
His family also own five Ferraris and other sports cars but it is their interest in the London property market that truly marks them out as among the world’s super rich.
Their Guernsey-based company Mount Eden Land Limited is the registered owner of the 14 acre Langham Estate in central London.
Last year, Mr Li Kin Kan’s 81-year-old father sold property in the Shaftesbury area of London’s Chinatown for £436 million.
He is estimated to be worth $3.7 billion. Mr Li Kin Kan recently hit the headlines when he took legal action ‘against a robot’ he blamed for losing him $20 million.
He had invested in a ‘computer controlled’ hedge fund after meeting Italian investor Raffaele Costa, dubbed Captain Magic.