Thursday, April 03, 2008
More than 400 British passengers are being "held to ransom" after their cruise ship was detained in Madeira. The vessel, the MV Van Gogh, is the subject of a court order relating to a £1.5million debt apparently owed by its previous owners. The 28,000-ton liner should have been on its way to Falmouth, Cornwall, at the end of a three-month voyage around the world. Among the passengers, most of them pensioners, is film star Shirley Anne Field. "They've had three months to sort this out, but they waited until now to ambush us," the 69-year-old last night. "They're just trying to hold everyone on board to ransom." Miss Field, who appeared in Alfie with Michael Caine and with Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, added: "Nobody's complaining very much. Most of us are enjoying our extra time in Madeira. We are being well cared for by the ship's crew."
MV Van GoghThe boat had been owned by Travelscope, a Gloucestershire holiday company which went into liquidation at Christmas. A new Cheltenham-based company, Van Gogh Cruises, was formed by the ship's Dutch buyers, Club Cruises, to allow the ship to maintain its passenger schedules. But yesterday Travelscope's administrators, chartered accountants Menzies Corporate Restructuring, lodged a claim under maritime law with the Madeira court. Tim Fleming, a director of Van Gogh Cruises, said: "The administrators are claiming money that they say relates to previous charters. "We are trying to get the ship released so we can sort this out back in Falmouth. "We just cannot understand why the administrators have taken this action now. Our passengers have had a wonderful time. "Wouldn't it have been an idea to make sure they enjoyed the rest of their trip to ensure more business for the ship in future so that any debts can be paid?" No one was available for comment last night at the administrators.