World’s Largest Sailing Ship Detained in UK due to Legal Dispute 

world's largest sailing ship detained
Golden Horizon docked today in Dover, England (Dover Port Police)

Published Jul 15, 2021 5:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

Update: Crotian media is reporting that the shipyard made a partial payment overnight to Star Clippers and the detention order has been withdrawn. AIS data confirms that the Golden Horizon has sailed and as of the afternoon of July 16 is heading to Torquay.


The world’s largest sailing ship was detained today at the Port of Dover in the UK hours before the passenger cruise ship was due to begin its maiden voyage. The arrest of the ship was the latest development in a long-running legal dispute between the Brodosplit Group in Croatia, that built the vessel, and the cruise line which originally ordered its construction.

At 8,770 gross tons and a length of 531 feet, the five-masted Golden Horizon is the world’s largest square-rigged sailing vessel and a near-replica of the 1913 built France II. The design features over 6,000 square meters of sail area, more than twice that of the famous Cutty Sark sailing ship, which was meant to keep the ship under sail up to 80 percent of the time. Her design speed is 16 knots.

As a modern-day passenger ship, she also meets the new safety requirements, including safe return to port, and she has an ice-class hull. She has accommodations for 300 passengers and 140 in crew, along with bars, a restaurant, pools, gym, and spa. 

Croatian media reports that the UK Admiralty court ordered the ship detailed at the Port of Dover after the vessel arrived today from a pre-inaugural travel industry event. Star Clippers of Monaco sought the order in a financial dispute with the builders, which continue to own the ship and chartered it to a newly formed company, Tradewind Voyages. She was scheduled to begin a series of cruises as part of the UK’s domestic cruise restart program before beginning a world tour.

Executives of Star Clippers told the Vijesti media outlet in Croatia, "despite several attempts to collect, the Croatian shipyard Brodosplit refused to voluntarily meet its financial obligations, so stopping the ship became inevitable."

Star Clippers orders the ship in 2015 to be built at the Brodosplit yard for delivery in 2017. Construction difficulties delayed her launch until June 2017, and with problems between the line and the yard, construction continued to fall behind schedule. By the summer of 2019, each side was blaming the other, and the order was canceled.

A subsequent legal dispute between the cruise line and Brodosplit was settled by arbitration in the spring, with the shipyard ordered to pay the cruise line a reported six million euros plus interest. The cruise line took out a lien against the vessel and now says it will only release the ship when the debt is settled.

Cruise operator Tradewind Voyages told the U.K. travel community that it was a simple misunderstanding between the companies and that everything was settled. They insisted that there are no outstanding liens against the ship and that the cruises would continue as planned.  The Golden Horizon was scheduled to sail today on a 4-day weekend cruise to Cowes and Torquay, but appears to remain at the dock in Dover.