The hunt for superyachts of sanctioned Russian oligarchs

Date Added: April 07, 2022 04:38:23 AM
Author: Sutra Web Directory
Category: News & References
A superyacht linked to Roman Abramovich has had to leave a port in Turkey, as Western powers ramp up pressure on Russian oligarchs.

The MY Solaris sailed to Bodrum last month after the billionaire was included in both UK and EU sanctions. It was greeted by protests from a boatload of young Ukrainians, who tried to stop the yacht docking there.

But after two weeks in Bodrum, Global Port Holdings, which operates the cruise terminal, said it had decided not to accept payment for berthing the ship.

The company, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, said it "has always strictly adhered to and will continue to adhere to... international sanctions rules and the requirements of the applicable laws, as well as to the legal conditions of its concession agreement in Bodrum."

In its statement, it said that it was not involved in deciding which ships could dock in the port, which is the responsibility of the Turkish authorities.

MY Solaris has since moved off from Bodrum to anchor in nearby Yalıkavak, while a second yacht linked to Mr Abramovich, the Eclipse, remains in Marmaris, a popular tourist destination along the Turkish Riviera.

Both vessels cost more than $500m and are among a number tracked by Lloyd's List Intelligence. The shipping data experts have been monitoring on-board tracking devices and have shared this information exclusively with the BBC, enabling the journeys of these and other vessels linked to sanctioned Russians to be plotted.

The UK, US and EU have said they will target superyachts, and some have already been seized in European ports. More remain at large - some are on the move, others are moored in places that are currently safe from sanctions, including the Maldives.

Many superyachts are linked to Russian billionaires but ownership is shrouded in secrecy - they are often registered through a series of offshore companies.

The team at Lloyd's List sifted through registration papers, credit reports and other records to determine who they believe is linked to each superyacht.

Roman Abramovich

MY Solaris, which is estimated to have cost $600m, boasts a pool and a helipad. It has a crew of up to 60 and can accommodate more than 30 guests.

It left Barcelona on 8 March where it was undergoing repairs, and docked off Tivat in Montenegro days after Mr Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK. Tivat is a hub for superyachts and boasts a large marina.

After this date, the yacht's tracking data shows it was steering clear of Greek territorial waters (Greece is in the EU) and sailing in international waters, where it cannot be seized.

On 21 March, it arrived in the Turkish resort of Bodrum, which has a modern marina and can accommodate superyachts up to 140m in length.

But its path was blocked by a small dinghy carrying eight children from a Ukrainian junior sailing team and their coach, waving Ukrainian flags.

Coach Paulo Donstov told the BBC they were there to compete in a sailing championship and were tipped off about the arrival of MY Solaris.

"We want the world to know that Ukraine wants freedom and peace," said Mr Donstov, whose family are still in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa.

Turkey has said it has "no intention" of joining EU sanctions on Russians and, unlike most European countries, it is still allowing direct flights from Russia.

The captain of one vessel linked to a wealthy Russian, who did not want to be identified, told the BBC that Turkish officials had made it clear that Russian ships are "very welcome and will be treated as any other vessel".

The Eclipse is one of the world's largest superyachts. It has nine decks, three helipads and a three-person submarine. It is also rumoured to have a missile-defence system and a laser-directed light system to deter photographers from taking pictures of the vessel.

It was docked off the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten - a Dutch overseas territory linked to the EU - but left at the beginning of March. It then sailed east through the Mediterranean, north of Algeria.

On 22 March, the data showed it arriving at Marmaris in Turkey. The resort, a former fishing village, is another popular destination for superyachts. There is a marina, an Ottoman castle and more than 50 diving sites nearby.

Sea Rhapsody has also been on the move. It has been linked to Andrei Kostin, president of the Russian state-owned VTB bank, who has been sanctioned by the US, EU and UK authorities.

The vessel, which boasts a cinema and a gym, left Fethiye in Turkey on 18 February, heading for Oman before arriving in the Seychelles on 3 March, where it has remained since.

The superyacht Clio is linked to Oleg Deripaska, an industrialist with close ties to President Putin, who has been sanctioned by the UK and the US.

It has its own support vessel called Sputnik - complete with its own helipad. Clio's on-board tracker located it near the Maldives in mid-March. It left these waters on 19 March, headed towards Oman and then the north-west coast of India, before turning back towards the Maldives.It has since headed north again, this time through the Gulf of Aden.

Several other vessels linked to sanctioned Russians were in or near the Maldives, including the Ocean Victory linked to Viktor Rashnikov and Nord linked to Alexei Mordashov.

The Madame Gu - linked to Andrey Skoch who has been sanctioned by the EU, UK and US - is in Dubai. And Le Grand Bleu, a yacht linked to Eugene Shvidler, who is under UK sanctions, was sailing in the Caribbean and is now in Puerto Rico (a US territory).

The Maldives, the Seychelles and Dubai don't have an agreement with the US, UK or EU that would allow the authorities to seize property, protecting yachts there from any sanctions.

But they may not be able to stay in safe waters indefinitely. "These things are living, guzzling animals on the water that need maintenance… so you need ports that can cater to that," says Capucine de Vallée, CEO of Boatbookings. "All the leading shipyards are in northern Europe."

She believes manufacturers may stop offering parts and maintenance due to sanctions.

A superyacht linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past sailed back to Russian waters before the invasion of Ukraine began.

Graceful moved from Germany to the coast of Kaliningrad, Russia, in mid-February.

But Lloyd's List says the movement data is limited as the vessel turned off its tracking device for several weeks.

Under the UN Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, ships must have their onboard-trackers switched on at all times unless there is a danger to the safety of the crew and vessel.

Several other yachts linked to Russians have also occasionally turned off their tracking data in the last month.

US officials are examining the ownership of a second yacht, the Scheherazade which is currently docked off the Italian town of Marina di Carrara.

Supporters of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny have linked the 140m vessel, estimated to be worth $700m, to President Putin.

Which yachts have been seized?
At this time of year, many superyachts would usually start heading toward popular European destinations, such as Port Hercule in Monaco or Marina Grande on the Italian island of Capri.

But some countries in Europe have now seized yachts linked to sanctioned Russians.

The US and Spanish authorities recently conducted a joint operation in Mallorca to seize the yacht Tango. It's linked to Viktor Vekselberg, who was sanctioned by the US in 2018.

There have been other vessels seized as well:

  • Sailing Yacht A seized in Trieste, Italy (linked to Andrei Melnichenko)
  • Lena seized in San Remo, Italy (linked to Gennadiy Timchenko)
  • Lady M seized in Imperia, Italy (linked to Alexei Mordashov)
  • Amore Vero seized in La Ciotat, France (linked to Russian oligarch Igor Sechin)
  • Valerie seized near Barcelona, Spain (linked to Sergei Chemenov)
  • Crescent seized in Tarragona, Spain
  • Lady Anastasia seized in Port Adriano, Spain (linked to Alexander Mikheev)
  • Axioma seized in Gibraltar (linked to Dmitrievich Pumpyansky)
  • There is still confusion about the status of one of the world's biggest superyachts, the Dilbar - linked to sanctioned Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov.

It was reported that it had been seized in Hamburg, but the local authorities told us that this was not the case and that it was docked for ongoing repairs.

And a further two yachts are reported to have been seized in France, but the details have not yet been confirmed by the authorities.

What about unsanctioned yachts?

Lloyds List looked at more than 40 superyachts that they linked to wealthy Russians. Many of them haven't been sanctioned and there are clusters of them (highlighted in blue) still in the Mediterranean.

But they are already getting a frosty welcome in some ports. Crew members have been shunned in Monaco, according to Ms de Vallee, with some contractors refusing to carry out maintenance work because of fears they might have their payments confiscated by the EU.

The captain of one superyacht told us: "Our line of credit is completely cut, which makes operating very difficult."

Reporting by: Jake Horton, Joshua Cheetham, Kumar Malhotra, Erwan Rivault, Daniele Palumbo and Nicholas Barrett.
~ Via BBC