Some Portland-area businesses still owed money by Nova Star Cruises Ltd. said they don’t expect the failed cruise ferry operator to make good on its obligations to them.

Nova Star Cruises filed for bankruptcy protection April 13 in Canada, listing about $15 million in debts to more than 200 creditors and only $142,000 in assets with which to pay them. Its owner, Eliot resident Mark Amundsen, signed the court filing from Tarifa, Spain, a picturesque beach resort community on the Mediterranean Sea.

Nova Star operated a cruise ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, during the 2014 and 2015 summer tourist seasons. It received about $41 million (Canadian) in subsidies from Nova Scotia’s government, but ultimately failed to attract the number of passengers it needed to remain viable.

Attempts to reach Amundsen, who had said in November that he intended to pay all outstanding obligations, were unsuccessful.

Among the Maine companies most affected by the Nova Star’s failure is Westbrook-based Pratt Abbott Cleaners, a linen and dry cleaning company. Nova Star Cruises’ filing lists an unsecured debt of $16,214 to Pratt Abbott, and the company has said the ship owner, Singapore Technologies Marine Ltd., owes it $262,000.

Pratt Abbott General Manager Thomas Gridley said he was not aware of the Nova Star bankruptcy filing, and that the company has been focused on its legal battle to recover the much larger sum from ST Marine in maritime court.


“Our feeling is that the owners of the Nova Star really are being unfair,” Gridley said. “They had the resources to fulfill their obligations to us.”

Even though Nova Star Cruises ended last season in debt and lost its charter rights to the vessel, federal law allows companies that sold it “maritime necessities” to seize the ship and force the ship owner – even if it was not the operator – to sell it at auction to raise money to pay them.

The Nova Star was seized under that law because of debts owed to local companies such as McAllister Towing, Pratt Abbott and Sprague Operating Resources.

The Singapore shipyard resolved most of those debts, and the ship was released from Portland Harbor in December, but ST Marine disagreed with some providers of supplies and services over whether they had provided “maritime necessities,” including Pratt Abbott, which supplied uniforms and linens to Nova Star Cruises.

Gridley said Pratt Abbott never anticipated that such a high-profile ferry operation would skip town without paying its debts.

“This has been an education,” he said. “It certainly affects people in Maine.”


Another major creditor in the bankruptcy is the city of Portland. According to the bankruptcy filing, the city is owed more than $78,000 for port fees and other obligations. However, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said ST Marine paid that debt as a condition of releasing the ship in December.

Although the city’s port fees and taxes were paid by ST Marine, Grondin said the city is still fighting the ship owner in Maine District Court over an outstanding $150,000 loan issued to Nova Star Cruises by the Portland Development Corp. ST Marine was required to post a $750,000 surety bond out of which the city-staffed economic development group’s loan could be repaid if it wins in court.

Among the other Maine creditors is Portland Pilots Inc., which is owed nearly $200,000. Portland Pilots is also suing the ship’s owner in federal court.

Also listed in the bankruptcy are Portland Tugboat ($12,030), the Portland Regional Chamber ($600), Publicover Security Service in Portland ($2,720), Troiano Waste Services ($2,784), the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau ($2,499) and Brown Ship Services ($43,225).

Also among the creditors are several media companies: MaineToday Media, publisher of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, is owed $9,890; WCSH-TV, $18,590; WGME, $17,600; Maine Public Broadcasting Network, $3,150; Hartford Courant Media Group in Boston, $15,000; and The Boston Globe, $139,434. The operator’s own public relations firm, Savvy Inc., owned by Dennis Bailey, is owed $9,012.

Melissa “MissE” Cloutier is among those whom the company failed to pay in full for their work. Cloutier’s dance studio and entertainment company in Portland, Red Hot & Ladylike, performed burlesque shows and taught dance classes on the ferry on weekends. The bankruptcy filing lists an unpaid debt of $1,000.


Cloutier said she was caught by surprise when Nova Star Cruises failed to pay for the final weekend that Red Hot & Ladylike performed on the ship.

“We didn’t know anything was going on,” she said, referring to the company’s financial problems. “I think it’s highly unlikely I’m ever going to see that ($1,000).”

Cloutier said Red Hot & Ladylike was always paid for its work before that final weekend, and performing and teaching on the ship was a good experience overall.

“The crew that they had was really awesome,” she said. “They kind of got the short end of the stick, too.”

Another vendor of the Nova Star was Portland-based HR Distributors, which provided electronic parts and repairs. The Nova Star filing lists an unpaid debt of $432 to the company.

HR Distributors owner Peter Horsman said his company did business with Nova Star during both years it operated. The ferry operator paid by credit card for services at the time they were rendered, he said, but last summer the ferry operator asked to open a customer line of credit.

Horsman said the company agreed, but it later revoked the line of credit when Nova Star failed to make any payments.

“They didn’t take us for much,” he said, adding that he feels bad for the many businesses that are probably out thousands of dollars as a result of the bankruptcy. “I don’t know how they could get away with it.”

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