An international legal battle has erupted around the 2009 built tanker DOMINIA that used to be owned by the Bari, Italy based shipping company Morfini.
Originally the tanker was arrested by Transport Malta via court order with CW 870/2023 on 23rd May, 2023 following the action of the Irish fund Nassau Maritime Holdings, which in the past had taken over several problem loans from the German bank Hsh Nordbank specializing in shipping claiming the amount of €38,938,518.22.
Morfini, who has been involved in a complex financial restructuring operation for years , has however contested the legitimacy of the counterparty’s enforcement action, with an unfavorable outcome so far before the Maltese judicial authorities.It renounced the application for a composition with creditors dating back to 2021 and last May initiated an application for access to the crisis and insolvency regulation tools on the basis of the Code of the same name which is in full force from July 2022,tried to enforce the decree of 19 May with which the designated judge of the Court of Bari (who shortly before had assigned the deadline of 60 days for the presentation of the composition proposal) had “confirmed the prohibition on starting or continuing executive actions and precautionary measures on the assets or assets of the company for 120 days” and that of 23 May which established that the examination of the requests for judicial liquidation would begin only following the outcome of the examination of the appeal for the composition with creditors (but excluding the proceedings of liquidation initiated by the Irish Iq Eq Fund Management).
However, a court in Malta rejected Morfini’s arguments and took the matter to the European judicial authorities, filing a complaint a week ago for violation of EU law and requesting diplomatic protection under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The threats to potential buyers of the ship are consequential, conveyed through a note reported by the Scandinavian newspaper: “In Italy, neither the removal of the current Italian flag nor the cancellation of the related mortgage will be authorized by the competent authorities, due to the protection measures in force . Anyone who purchases DOMINIA will obviously be exposed to all national and international compensation actions for having acquired a ship protected and safeguarded in Italy and Europe by laws that have been completely superseded or deliberately interpreted in favor of one party.”
On Thursday 28th September, at Bunkering Area 3 ,the old crew did not want to disembark from the tanker though DOMINIA was sold via a court order with the joining crew (NEW) aboard the 36 metre utility boat JOANNA M of which she was alongside around 0900 hrs with the new crew were not allowed to embark and there was a standoff.
At 2350 hrs the AFM SAR Boat MELITA I with Police and Court Marshall aboard called the vessel and radio officer on watch, said that he will advise the master to lower gangway for authorities to give him documents.
At first Master asked what was the reason and after a while he confirmed that Combination ladder was set up.
On Friday 29th September at oo14 hrs Transport Malta Enforcement rib STRALL called MELITA I to come alongside her so officers would embark DOMINIA.
Once operation was completed STRALL remained in the area.
In the meantime various vhf exchanges between TM aboard the tanker with MELITA I that Master was co-operating.
At 0058 hrs from TM aboard the tanker advised MELITA I to call JOANNA M to approach as from Court Marshall everything is clear and the Italian Master of DOMINIA advised all his crew to prepare and disembark.
JOANNA M entered back at Grand Harbour, Malta at 0402 hrs and STRALL at 0306 hrs today Friday 29th September, 2023.