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Editions

Saga just gets worse for Queen of Melbourne owner

30 Jun 2015

Saga just gets worse for Queen of Melbourne owner Image

Life has gone from bad to worse for Queen of Melbourne owner Farooq Qamar, after the Supreme Court last month dismissed his claim for almost $150,000 worth of damages.

Mr Qamar made the claim against the City of Melbourne and Seaworks after the ship was refused berths in Victoria Harbour and Williamstown.

The Supreme Court decision is the most recent blow for the ship owner who purchased the Queen of Melbourne in Norway early last year for $300,000 and hired a crew to sail it back to Australia.

But during the journey things turned sour, with half the crew taking part in a mutiny off the coast of Spain.

The ship eventually made it to Fremantle, following the intervention of the Spanish authorities.

Since being refused berths in Melbourne, Queen of Melbourne has been unable to secure a berth elsewhere and is currently anchored in Corio Bay near Geelong.

Mr Qamar took the City of Melbourne to the Supreme Court alleging it had promised him a temporary berth in Victoria Harbour for his ship Queen of Melbourne.

He also claimed damages against Seaworks, which manages the Williamstown Maritime Precinct, alleging the organisation had promised a long-term berth for the ship.

Mr Qamar maintained that his decision to bring the ship to Melbourne from Fremantle, where it had an ongoing berth, was based on the alleged guarantees of short and long-term berthing made by the City of Melbourne and Seaworks.

However, both organisations have consistently maintained that no promise of short or long-term berthing was made to Mr Qamar.

On June 17 Supreme Court Justice Kevin Bell dismissed Mr Qamar’s claims, finding that there was “no reasonable foundation for this belief” and ordered him to pay both the council’s and Seaworks’ reserved legal costs.

Queen of Melbourne had arrived in Docklands on May 10 and was moored without permission at the Docklands working wharf for a number of days.

Mr Qamar had previously met with City of Melbourne waterways operations co-ordinator Adam Buccholtz in May 2014 to discuss obtaining a suitable berth for the ship but was told verbally and by email that a berth was not available in Docklands.

In March this year, after becoming aware that the Queen of Melbourne was in Australian waters, having travelled from Norway, Mr Buccholtz emailed Mr Qamar to ask whether he had secured an alternative berth.

When Mr Qamar responded that he hadn’t secured another berth, waterways manager Doug Jarvis intervened and emailed Mr Qamar, stating there was no suitable berth available in Docklands.

During the hearing Mr Qamar alleged that he had a phone conversation with Mr Jarvis on March 31, during which the promise of a temporary berth was made.

Justice Bell confirmed in his written decision that he accepted that Mr Qamar formed a “genuine belief” during this conversation that Docklands would provide a temporary berth upon Queen of Melbourne’s arrival.

However, he also accepted the evidence of Mr Jarvis, who consistently denied that any promise of a temporary berth was made.

Justice Bell said this evidence was supported by an email Mr Jarvis sent to Mr Qamaron March 31 confirming there was no suitable berth available for Queen of Melbourne.

In his written decision, Justice Bell said he accepted that Mr Qamar brought the ship to Melbourne in the expectation that a permanent berth would be available, “for he is a rational man who would not have done so without considering this question”.

“It was Mr Qamar’s belief that he had a short-term berth for the ship at Docklands when necessary and a long-term berth at Seaworks subject to the possible requirements to move from time to time,” Justice Bell said.

“However, the whole of the evidence reveals that there was no reasonable foundation for this belief either as to the City of Melbourne or to Seaworks.”

Justice Bell also dismissed allegations made during the hearing that there was “dysfunction at the Docklands Waterways Office”, saying this claim was completely without foundation.

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