British Columbia

Ship belonging to troubled B.C. expedition cruise company detained in Argentina

A cruise ship belonging to Squamish-based One Ocean Expeditions has been ordered by an Argentinian federal judge to stay in the port of Buenos Aires due to a "significant debt."

RCGS Resolute ordered to stay in Argentina due to a 'significant debt,' port authority says

One Ocean Expeditions occasionally docks its ship, the RCGS Resolute, next to the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion at the downtown Sydney marine terminal. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

A cruise ship belonging to Squamish, B.C.-based One Ocean Expeditions has been ordered by an Argentinian federal judge to stay in the port of Buenos Aires due to a "significant debt."

The RCGS Resolute has been at the port since October when the company cancelled a trip to Antarctica at the last minute, stranding up to 140 passengers. Since then, two more Antarctic voyages have been cancelled and employees allege they're owed thousands in unpaid wages.

Very little information has been provided for passengers of upcoming trips, some who paid up to $30,000 US.

One Ocean Expeditions is being sued by another company for the "significant debt," said Cecilia Jones, a spokeswoman for the port of Buenos Aires. Jones could not identify the company that alleges it is owed money, nor disclose the amount.

The ship cannot fuel up or leave the port until a judge rules on the case, she added. She could not say how long that may take.

"If this situation does not change soon, it will affect the cruise season in its peak season, hence creating unnecessary expenses and logistical problems," Jones said in an email.

She said the port of Beunos Aires has asked the judge handling the ship case to transfer the vessel to another place.

'I guess it all kind of culminated in Argentina'

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF),  a global union, also confirmed the ship has been ordered to stay at the port. Karl Risser, an inspector with the ITF, cited issues with unpaid crew, adding the union is "monitoring the situation." 

"Obviously [One Ocean Expeditions] is suffering some problems," Risser said. 

"There's this kind of line of casualties of crew that aren't getting paid and suppliers that are doing services that aren't getting paid. I guess it all kind of culminated in Argentina."

The company has not responded to numerous requests for comment from CBC News. In a statement on social media last month, it asked for patience during a difficult period of "restructuring."

The ongoing situation is worrying for some passengers booked on upcoming cruises.

Peter Kambo, from Vancouver, spent $17,000 for a trip to Antarctica scheduled to leaved on Dec. 1. He doesn't know if that trip is still happening.

This week, Kambo received an email from the company that neither confirmed or denied a departure.

"Although our efforts at restructuring our business have gone quite well to date, we have not quite made progress enough to confirm things just yet as we work with a very qualified potential partner," the statement said.

"We do expect, and hope, to get back to you in just a few days with further information."

The mixed messages are frustrating for Kambo, who is scheduled to fly to Santiago, Chile, next week to meet up with the tour. 

"It is smoke and mirrors," he said. "We just want some transparency. Am I going, am I not? I would like to know well in advance.

"It puts us in a difficult in a difficult situation from a planning standpoint."