Head of China's cruise liner says 'sorry' for stranded ship in S. Korea

BEIJING, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) -- The head of a Chinese cruise liner said he was "sorry" for tourists after its ship was stranded in South Korea for two days because of a legal dispute with a Hong Kong-registered shipping services company, state media reported Monday.

Hundreds of Chinese cruise tourists started returning home on Sunday via emergency flights after the luxury cruise ship, Henna, was stranded in South Korea's southern resort island of Jeju, following an order by a Jeju court that banned the ship from leaving due to a seizure request by the Hong Kong-based Shagang Shipping.

"We are very sorry for what happened," the China Daily quoted Han Luhai, the president of HNA Tourism Cruise and Yacht Management, which operates the cruise liner, as saying.

"Some passengers chose to return in the Henna, and the rest of the passengers will all fly back to Beijing by Monday," Han said.

Han said the cruise ship will depart Jeju as early as Monday, if everything goes smoothly.

The Jeju court issued the order after Shagang Shipping applied for the seizure as it won a liquidation order against Grand China Shipping Hong Kong, a subsidiary of HNA Group, for an unpaid US$58 million arbitration award in November, the newspaper said.

In a statement, the operator of Henna criticized the Hong Kong firm for "restricting the personal freedom of those on board and severely infringing upon the rights of innocent passengers."

During a regular press briefing on Monday, China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters, "Up to now, 1,409 Chinese tourists have come back by airplanes offered by relevant companies and other stranded Chinese nationals will come home very soon.

"The ROK (South Korea) side is providing flight permits and other relevant assistance to China," Hong said.

"The Chinese foreign ministry and the Chinese Embassy in the ROK will closely follow the developments and work with all relevant parties to properly deal with the relevant issue at an early date."

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