A superyacht is considered the most effective tool for the ultra-rich to show off their wealth and status. It’s a well-known fact that superyachts often decide the pecking order amongst the wealthiest people on this planet. The majestic Motor Yacht A is a great example. Owned by Russian tycoon Andrey Melnichenko, the pleasure vessel’s unique design instantly made it a superstar in the world of yachts. Furthermore, it is believed the 119-meter superyacht was named “A” to ensure it is listed first in shipping registers, while a newspaper report claimed it was done “so that nothing can precede her in the list of the world’s greatest vessels.” Ironically, the conspicuous superyacht that enjoyed being in the spotlight has been desperately trying to stay hidden ever since Russia invaded Ukraine. Melnichenko is one of the Russian oligarchs to be sanctioned and his Motor Yacht A has gone “dark” to avoid being seized by the authorities.
According to publicly available marine traffic data, Motor Yacht A was last detected in the waters of the Indian Ocean near Male, Maldives in the first week of March. However, the superyacht suddenly stopped broadcasting its location on March 10 and its location has remained a mystery ever since.
Incidentally, two days later the Italian authorities seized another vessel owned by Melnichenko named Sailing Yacht A, which happens to be the biggest sailing yacht in the world and is worth $580 million. Motor Yacht A is not the only superyacht to go dark by switching off the vessel’s automatic tracking system. Alexei Mordashov’s $500 million superyacht Nord also adopted the desperate measure of switching off the transponder a few weeks back to remain untraceable. In fact, there are quite a few Russian-owned pleasure crafts that have done the same to save them from being seized.
It’s important to remember that it’s against international regulation to switch off the vessel’s AIS transponder unless there is a piracy threat. The automatic identification system (AIS) uses transponders that provide the position, identification, course, and speed of the ship to other ships and to coastal authorities. The system works in conjunction with marine radar for collision avoidance for water transport.
The data generated by the AIS can also be publicly tracked by several online maritime tracking services. While the location of the Motor Yacht A has not been updated for more than two months now, Motor Yacht A is predicted to still be in the Maldives, which has become one of the preferred safe havens for Russian oligarchs to hide their superyachts. At least six Russian-owned superyachts are believed to be taking refuge in the island nation.
Motor Yacht A
Motor Yacht A is considered by many as the most famous superyacht in the world thanks to its unconventional blade-like design that makes it look like Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine. What makes its design even more fascinating is that it was penned in just two hours by celebrated superyacht designer Philippe Starck. Although the gigantic vessel has a length of 119 meters and measures almost 6,000 tones, its sleek design helps slice through the water leaving almost no wake at 25 knots (about 29 mph).
Ordered in 2004, the Motor Yacht A was engineered by naval architect Martin Francis and built by Blohm + Voss at its shipyard Kiel at the cost of $300 million. The beautiful vessel sent ripples through the superyacht industry when it was finally delivered in 2008. It was also the sixth-largest privately owned motor yacht in the world when it was completed.
While the vessel’s stealthy upside-down hull design is probably the most prominent highlight, the Motor Yacht A is packed with unconventional design features. One of them is the main outdoor lounging area that’s located forward of the saloon. Although protected by a deck overhang, it’s open to the elements from the bow. The boat’s interior is also equally unconventional and is just as eye-catching as the bespoke exterior design. Unlike traditional superyachts that are overwhelmingly stuffed with furniture and fixtures, the Motor Yacht A’s interior is minimalistic and features shiny white and polished silver finishes.
There are rooms that have floor-to-ceiling mirrors. If that sounds quirky, the walls of one room are covered in white sting-ray hides, while another is covered in hand-stitched calf’s leather. There is a helipad above the deck and a swimming pool forward of the superstructure along with two more pools aft. One of them is glass-bottomed and can be viewed from the below-deck disco. The superyacht can accommodate up to 14 guests and requires a crew of 37.
The tender garage of the vessel is described by Starck as his favorite spot on Motor Yacht A. It has two 11m tenders, the Open and the Limo models, both of which have also been designed by Philippe Starck himself. The sleek superyacht is powered by MAN RK280 diesel engines capable of producing around 1200 hp cumulatively, sufficient to give it a maximum speed of 23 knots. At her cruising speed of 19 knots (about 22 mph), the vessel can travel a maximum of 6,500 nautical miles.
Who is Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko?
Melnichenko is a 50-year-old Russian billionaire industrialist who is the founder and ex-beneficiary of fertilizer producer EuroChem Group and coal company SUEK. According to Forbes, his net worth is estimated at US$15.8 billion as of 10 March 2022, making him the 7th richest person in Russia. His first business venture was a chain of currency-exchange booths he started in the 1990s. Although Melnichenko has denied he has any political affiliations, a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin following the invasion of Ukraine got him on the sanctions list.