The ship’s owners, Pacific Schooners Ltd have until 5pm on Tuesday, October 10 to prove that the vessel can be removed from the harbour under its own power in the event of a cyclone.
If this doesn’t happen the vessel will be considered inoperable, and deemed by the court to have been abandoned.
This was confirmed in minutes filed by Justice Patrick Keane, on September 21, when meeting with counsel representing PSL’s creditors.
Justice Keane also said in the summary that Garth Broadhead, a director and shareholder in Pacific Schooners Ltd, had also filed an affidavit that same day, contesting the Ports Authority’s conclusion that the vessel was abandoned and inoperable.
Broadhead said at the time he would have an engineer in Avarua by October 4 to demonstrate that the vessel is operable, and that it was in fact able to leave the harbour under its own propulsion.
This follows recent claims by the Ports Authority that the vessel is a potential cyclone hazard which could cause catastrophic economic damage to the Cook Islands in the event of a severe storm.
The Ports Authority also recently supported a petition filed earlier this year by counsel representing creditors, Apex Agencies trading as Toa Petroleum and Porter Group Holdings Ltd trading as Toa Gas, seeking to wind up PSL.
The petition was issued on the grounds that Pacific Schooners had been served with a notice under the Companies Act 1955 and had failed to comply with the notice by paying a debt of $55,472.02, for the supply of fuel to the ship.
There was no mention in the recent minutes of Pacific Schooners Ltd’s intention to appoint a liquidator, but it was recorded that, “The issue remains as to the fate of the claims of the creditors generally.”
In the seemingly unlikely event that the Tiare Taporo does prove to be operable this week, Justice Keane said there was always the possibility that it may leave the jurisdiction of the Cook Islands, which may further hamper creditors in their ability to pursue PSL’s principal asset.
Previously, if a suitable liquidator was not nominated to wind up PSL, the Ports Authority intended to seek to invoke its power of removal under section 54 of the Ports Authority Act 1994-1995.
If the vessel proves to be abandoned next week, along with the petition, counsel for the Ports Authority will seek orders along the lines of those used in the “Miss Mataroa” case, along with further suggested draft documentation to allow that procedure to go ahead.
As happened following the removal of Miss Mataroa from Avatiu wharf, the Tiare Taporo would ultimately be scuttled and sunk off the coast of Rarotonga.
Because the case is currently before the court, counsel for the Ports Authority would not confirm any specific plans for where the ship could be sunk, nor confirm if it would be used as a future diving attraction.
Scuttling the Tiare Taporo is not the Ports Authority’s preferred option, but is the last available choice, unless a third party steps forward to assume responsibility for the vessel.
Or, if its current directors assume their responsibility before the upcoming deadline, and looming cyclone season.