PORTLAND (AP) – A 400-foot cargo ship is being detained in Portland Harbor pending a financial dispute between the French owner of the boat and a Dutch bank.

U.S. marshals stopped the vessel Shamrock last week under the order of a federal judge following a legal claim by Fortis Bank saying it had not received any payments on the vessel since September 2001.

Lawyers representing the boat’s owner and the bank say the ship may be allowed to unload some of its cargo, which includes a shipment of Scottish whiskey, within the next day or two.

But with the bank’s demands for immediate repayment of $14.3 million unresolved, it was not clear how soon container cargo would start moving through Portland again.

“We’re still working on that,” said Michael Kaplan, a Portland lawyer representing the vessel owner, Copropriete du Navire Shamrock.

“I assume the parties are talking in Europe,” said Peter Plumb, the Portland lawyer representing Fortis Bank.

U.S. marshals arrested the vessel last week under the terms of admiralty law and the order of a federal judge in Portland. The bank is demanding immediate payment of all outstanding principal and interest on the loan, and the vessel sits at a designated ship anchorage off Portland’s East End.

There are 13 people on board, including 11 professional crew and two Canadian cadets. The Shamrock’s crew generally does not come ashore in Portland, and crews aboard foreign-flagged tankers that tend to stay in port for several days are often restricted to their ships because of new security rules.

Shamrock’s crew is used to making a weekly round-trip run between Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Boston and has essentially missed one circuit, so far.

The movement of cargo remains a concern, and the bank and the ship owner were seeking approvals to have the Shamrock unload Portland-bound cargo while remaining under arrest, lawyers said Monday.

“That would not resolve the global situation, but at least it would help the shippers,” Kaplan said.

That would be good news for Maine businesses such as White Rock Distilleries of Lewiston, which has a shipment of whiskey from Scotland sitting on board the ship.

AP-ES-07-27-04 1212EDT


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