I have seen filing the complaint without executing the order for arrest result in prompt payment. I’ve also seen it result in a bankruptcy filing the day before the answer was due. I’ve seen the bank holding the ship’s preferred mortgage pay the crew in exchange for assignment of the crew claims.
If the owner files an answer instead of filing for bankruptcy, what can the answer say? There are really only three choices: we admit we owe the crew wages; we deny we owe the crew any wages because they have already been paid; or we admit we owe the crew some wages, but dispute the amount claimed. None of those answers takes the owners very far.
That ship is probably worth at least $500,000. Its worth auctioning it off.
My guess is that the owner is probably still due payments from the government cargo contracts. The crew might want to name the Government in the lawsuit, especially if there is any government cargo still onboard, and try to attach the cargo and any payments due to the company from the government.
The crew might try to jointly arrest the ship with the local vendors. The local vendors are in the best position to arrest the ship because they have the contacts to arrange for a reasonable cost substitute custodian and cheap wharfage.
There may be some merit to having some of the crew file a state court receivership case seeking the appointment of a receiver to take over and run the insolvent company. Hopefully that receiver would pay the crew with priority. It would at least stop the owners from paying themselves. But that would probably result in the company filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy so that owners could continue to run the company and pay themselves with the crew’s money.
I think the crew will eventually get paid, if MEBA provides lawyers to represent them. Without lawyers, it’s unlikely that the crew will ever get paid. Probably six to 18 months to see a check if the owners cannot pay, but it could be longer.
MEBA should really go after TAL and make an example out of them, to MEBAs members, potential future pledges, and to other shipowners. MEBA should also make sure that the officers get placed in new MEBA jobs.