Israeli-based Caspi Cruises has ceased operations, with both Mirage I (1973/14,264gt) and Rio (1971/16,710gt) arrested and laid up at Ashdod on 17 May and 19 June respectively. The 320 crew members of Rio, formerly Louis Cruises’ The Aegean Pearl, refused to leave the ship until they were paid a total of US$600,000 back pay.

The crew, made up of Israelis, Egyptians, Indians, Filipinos, Ukrainians and other nationalities, spent several weeks on board the vessel, which ran out of fuel, as a result of which basic services such as electricity, air-conditioning and other systems stopped functioning. Food parcels were provided by the crews of other ships in the port. It is rumoured Caspi’s owner has abandoned the company and disappeared. The receivers have placed the vessel back on the market and are asking for US$8 million.In September 2007 Caspi made headlines when Dream (1970/22,945gt) began listing while docked in Rhodes, as a result of a damaged ballast pump, which forced the evacuation of all her 1,200 Israeli passengers. The ship’s senior officers were arrested and it was two months before Dream was allowed to sail for Turkey.

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