Yachts have been called superyachts for a reason. They are super luxurious vessels owned by super-rich billionaires. While governments fervently seized these pleasure crafts, it was only a matter of months before they realized that maintaining the ships was indeed suited to deep-pocketed tycoons. Several European nations impounded the multi-million-dollar floating palaces of Russian oligarchs. Italian enforcement officials alone have seized at least four yachts and 20 luxury homes, as well as cars, artwork, and other precious objects since spring 2022, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Last year, the Italian government allocated nearly $15 million to cover urgent maintenance costs for yachts and villas. “Our problems are the yachts,” said an Italian official. “If the war continues… the running costs could potentially exceed their actual value.”When it comes to megayachts, in particular, the bigger the vessel, the more amenities and upkeep costs it entails.
Regularly scraping their hulls and burning thousands of dollars worth of fuel for daily air-conditioning, crew salaries, insurance, and docking charges are the most basic expenses. For the layperson, the best way to estimate how much it costs to keep a massive megayacht is nearly 10% of its value per year to maintain. According to a Reuters story published in September 2023, Italy’s GDP shrank by 0.4% in the second quarter compared to the first.
The Italian brain trust Prometeia has stated that the Italian economy is currently experiencing a stagnation phase, although it does not foresee a “full-blown recession.” Despite this economic situation, the Italian government is paying $275,000 weekly for the upkeep of Russia’s richest man, Andrey Melnichenko’s seized $580 million vessel, Sailing Yacht A.
Incidentally, the designer Sailing Yacht A is not the biggest vessel seized by Italy. That title belongs to the $700 million Scheherazade superyacht last year. Allegedly, a mystery owner footed the bill for the refit and maintenance, as well as the vessel’s staff, while the 460-footer sat in the Tuscan port of Marina di Carrara. Italian officials also impounded the $71 million superyacht Lady M, which belongs to Alexei Mordashov, and the $55 million Lady Lena, an exquisite 171-footer Sanlorenzo vessel. Together, their value exceeds $1.4 billion, and considering the annual 10 percent maintenance charge, the nation needs to allocate $140 million for just these four vessels.
The law stipulates that countries responsible for the seized boats must return them in shipshape condition, not as shadows of their former selves. The only other option is to allow the owners to pay for the upkeep, but even that choice is entangled in complications. Sanctioned owners cannot use the financial system to transfer funds without special government permission. Obtaining these permissions can take up to two years or more, during which time the government continues to cover these enormous bills.