The 1967 build The Highlander is now under the control of Ocean Marine Yacht Center, following a court order for admiralty arrest. The move stems from Ocean Marine saying more than $744,000 remains unpaid for storage and related services since 2015.
Ocean Marine filed a lawsuit on July 28 in Virginia Eastern District Court. According to court documents, Victor Muller, owner of the 116-foot (35.42-meter) The Highlander (via his company Blue Delta Navigation Limited) took the megayacht to Ocean Marine in December 2011. He signed a contract for “various troubleshooting and repairs,” the complaint states. In addition, “The Highlander has remained at the Ocean Marine yard without interruption since 2011, incurring storage charges, and charges for repairs as requested by Mr. Muller.”
Since that time, Ocean Marine adds, it’s sent monthly invoices for repairs, service, dockage, utilities, and storage. Muller paid some of the total, the complaint continues, but has not made any further payments as of July 13, 2015. Therefore, Ocean Marine states, the unpaid balance, along with the subsequent ongoing monthly charges, total $744,266.64.
A U.S. District Court judge granted Ocean Marine’s request for admiralty arrest and a maritime lien the same day as the suit filing. In addition, the judge appointed Ocean Marine as substitute custodian for The Highlander in lieu of the U.S. Marshals Service. In brief, with vessel seizure in the United States, the Marshals designates one of its deputies to oversee custody. Sometimes, however, courts appoint other qualified individuals or companies, a.k.a. substitute custodians, to act on the Marshals’ behalf. Custodians must provide secure docking, staff to ensure the vessel remains safe, and insurance to protect against claims for damage or liability.
Furthermore, if a court finds that a resolution fails to occur within a particular timeframe, the Marshals may sell a seized vessel. Ocean Marine is seeking court permission to have The Highlander sold to pay the money owed. As of presstime, the judge has not issued a ruling.
Ocean Marine declined to comment when we contacted the yard. We did not receive a response from Muller. However, he told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper last week, “This matter is being dealt with as we speak.”
Muller acquired The Highlander in 2007. The megayacht launched in March 1967 for the late Malcolm Forbes. She was the third yacht that Forbes christened with this name, and his second Feadship.