BOTH RENAISSANCE CRUISE LINERS STATIONED AT PAPE'ETE SEIZED

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PAPE‘ETE, Tahiti, French Polynesia (September 30, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---Both American-owned Renaissance luxury liners currently docked in Pape‘ete Harbor have been seized by local officials following announcement of the company's bankruptcy last week, the daily newspaper La Dépêche de Tahiti reports.

The move followed a ruling Thursday by Pape‘ete's Trade Tribunal, which ordered both liners not to leave French Polynesia, mainly on the grounds that their fuel bills and current debentures had not been paid.

Last week, Miami-based Renaissance Cruises company, which faced massive booking cancellations throughout the world, announced plans to cease operations.

Renaissance's closure followed initial reactions from the tourism market to the current international tension following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Renaissance has operated the two 180-meter (594-foot) luxury liners, the Renaissance 3 and the Renaissance 4, in French Polynesia since 1999.

Both ships, each with the capacity to carry 684 passengers and 373 crewmembers, have been based at French Polynesia's main island of Tahiti and toured other island areas, such as Bora Bora and Moorea, typically for ten-day cruises.

Members of the American upper end tourist market were the ships’ main passengers.

The two Renaissance ship were built in France and were granted tax exemptions under the Pons Act, which was passed by the French Parliament in the mid-eighties to boost investment in French overseas territories.

One of the requirements regarding the exemptions is that the R3 and R4 must be based in French Polynesia for at least five years.

Other special investments pertaining to the cruises included harbor infrastructure improvements in Pape‘ete and other islands on the tour route.

The local tourism industry is expected to lose tens of millions of U.S. dollars because of the ships being withdrawn from service.

"For the time being, we don't want to dramatize things and we are looking at all options," French Polynesia's Vice President Edouard Fritch said.

President Gaston Flosse has written to France’s State Secretary for Overseas Territories Christian Paul, saying French Polynesia now faces serious losses from the tourism setback.

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