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$3 million sails away as liquidator leaves little hope

March 26, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The difficulty consumers face in recovering their funds when Australian travel companies go under is illustrated by a case in which an operator managed to keep taking money during what may have been more than two years of trading while insolvent.

ABC News, probing the collapse of Kimberley budget cruise company Ahoy Buccaneers, spoke to a customer who was left AUD 17,000 out of pocket when she and her partner travelled to Wyndham in the Kimberley, only to find the cruise they had paid for had been cancelled. Other would-be passengers on the cruise found themselves in the same position.

In July 2018, the Western Australian Government’s Consumer Protection agency issued advice for people owed refunds from Broome-based cruise business Ahoy Buccaneers, which had gone into voluntary administration.

The management of the operating company Bloo Moons Pty Ltd is now the responsibility of administrators Matthew Woods and Hayden White of KPMG Perth. A creditors meeting will be held on Monday 9 July 2018 at 2.30pm at the Mercure Hotel in Broome.

 Prior to the company going into administration, Consumer Protection had received several complaints about Ahoy Buccaneers from consumers who had paid for cruises that were cancelled and who never received refunds. These included a very disappointed group of tourists who had flown to Broome from Queensland for the cruise, only to find out once they had arrived that their cruise had been cancelled.

 Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said consumers who are owed money should register as a creditor with the administrators and attend the creditors’ meeting.

 “It will be the job of the administrators to determine whether consumers receive their money back, or part of it, after they complete their assessment of the company’s financial position,” Mr Hillyard said.

The administration of Bloo Moons turned into liquidation in December 2018 when the company’s director moved interstate, ending any remaining going concerns, the ABC reported.

ABC News spoke recently to a former employee who said he had not been paid. Tony Richards skippered the cruise boat on and off for two years, while his fiancé was head deckhand and chef.

Together they are owed AUD 16,000 in unpaid wages and were left unemployed when the company went into administration. Richards said they nearly lost their house.

Ahoy Buccaneers’ yacht MV Oceanic

The liquidator has now found the company may have been insolvent from July 2016, according to ABC News. The broadcaster adds it had been reporting about cruises cancelled by Ahoy Buccaneers since May 2016 – along with safety breaches around the seaworthiness of the vessel MV Oceanic “as well as an incident where a passenger was accidentally left on a remote island”.

The latest liquidator’s report from KPMG’s Matthew Woods states: “We do not expect there will be any dividends paid to former employees or unsecured creditors of the company.”

The ABC report is on their news site here. The tale is not encouraging for creditors of travel operations that collapse.

Written by Peter Needham

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