Monday, August 20, 2001

The Yugoslav vessel formerly known as Obod will
now be known as the Pan Oasis.

Korean company
buys stranded
Yugoslav ship

Lawsuits involving the ship's
crew and claims over the sale's
proceeds still remain

By Leila Fujimori

After being stranded in Honolulu Harbor for more than nine months awaiting repairs and a buyer, the Yugoslav ship Obod has been sold and is scheduled to set sail later this month.

The ship has been docked at the harbor since Nov. 4, when it was towed in for a second time for repairs after getting caught by a storm at sea.

"We're happy that we're going to finally complete this voyage," said Bob Frame, attorney for the Obod's buyer, Pan Ocean Shipping Ltd., the Korean company that originally chartered the ship from Oktoih Overseas Shipping.

Pan Ocean bought the ship Aug. 10 for the minimum bid -- $2.85 million.

But while the Obod's journey at sea is almost over, legal wrangling surrounding its stay in Honolulu Harbor has just begun. Several parties are laying claims to the proceeds of the sale and some crew members have other litigation pending.

The Korean flag on the Pan Oasis.

After the Obod was towed into Honolulu Harbor, Oktoih was unable to pay for repairs and replacement of some parts, which included four of 20 steel trusses on deck that were lost at sea.

The Obod's cargo -- including 16,000 tons of construction steel, lead ingots and steel pipes that remain below deck -- was never delivered.

Additionally, the crewmen were stranded on board the ship for about two months. Officials with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service prohibited crew members from going ashore after a standard 29-day leave expired. But after a Jan. 30 Star-Bulletin article publicized their plight, INS lifted the restriction. The crew eventually returned home June 28 to the former Yugoslavia.

Oktoih was unable to pay the vessel's bills or the seamen's wages and plane tickets home, eventually borrowing the money.

Meanwhile, additional costs including state mooring fees, administrative costs and brokerage fees began to accumulate.

The ship was seized by U.S. marshals Dec. 28 after the towing company sued the ship's owner for payment due.

Pan Ocean's purchase of the Obod was made mainly out of necessity, Frame said, noting that the company still must deliver the cargo to the mainland and no other qualified bidders appeared. The ship has been renamed the Pan Oasis.

"I am not happy that ship is sold," said Miroslav Janicic, Obod's captain, who along with two other former crewmen was hired by Pan Ocean. "I am 20 years on Obod. It is like you love something personal. But I am happy that all story is finally finished."

Oh, but it's not.

Among those laying claim to sale proceeds is mortgagee Schiffscommerz GmbH, i.L., the company that lent money to Oktoih.

Nordic Technical Development Inc., the towing company, Norton Lilly Hawaii, the ship's agent for procuring services locally, and Marisco Ltd., the shipyard that repaired the vessel's engine, also will lay claim to about $750,000, said Brian Ho, an attorney representing the three companies.

Also pending is litigation over a variety of other claims.

Twelve of the 20 seamen who sought lost wages are angry that attorneys' fees and other costs were taken out of their regular wages.

Djordje Dragojevic was upset that $4,000, the equivalent of three months' salary, went toward lawyers' fees while those who did not sue received their regular wages. A personal-injury claim also is pending.

"We seamen, we very poor," said Dragojevic, who returned to Honolulu after being rehired as an engine room mechanic. "My four children, my wife no work. I am poor man."

Paul Cronin, an attorney representing the seamen, was unavailable for comment.

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