The US and its allies have seized more than a dozen superyachts worth more than $2.3 billion to penalize Russian oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin for the invasion of Ukraine. Last week, the United States finally took full control of MY Amadea after it was cleared by the Fiji Supreme court, ending weeks of legal and administrative hurdles. The luxury yacht linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov set sail from the island nation on Tuesday bearing a US flag, making it the first to do so. However, several Russian-owned superyachts that have successfully managed to avoid getting seized so far have lost their flag states thanks to the crippling sanctions.
With nowhere to go, these superyachts have now been forced to sail under new flags. Case in point, Motor Yacht A and Nord – two of the most prominent superyachts owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs – are now sailing under the Emirates and Russian flags respectively, as pointed out by vlogger and superyacht expert eSysman SuperYachts.
Both Nord and Motor Yacht A are currently in friendly waters, protected from the western authorities. Owned by steel billionaire Alexei Mordashov, the $500 million MY Nord made aggressive and dangerous maneuvers along with keeping its tracking system switched off to avoid capture.
Back in April, the superyacht with a British crew fled from Seychelles to Vladivostok, a port on the east coast of Russia. At one point, the vessel’s destination was set for Busan in South Korea. However, it must have been a tactic to confuse the authorities trying to capture the vessel. Currently, the vessel is said to be flying a Russian flag on the stern and things like the call sign and unique MMSI number have also been changed.
On the other hand, Motor Yacht A owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko is currently believed to be sailing under the Emirates flag, according to the YouTube superyacht expert. However, there’s no evidence to support the claim. The blade-shaped vessel has had its tracking transponders switched off since March and its last broadcasted location was somewhere in the Maldives. But the 119-meter pleasure craft was spotted in the UAE by the Financial Times on April 18, moored opposite Ras al-Khaimah’s city-center fish market. The YouTuber also claims that the superyacht was shadowed by an Iranian warship on its way to the UAE. Motor Yacht A was deregistered by the Isle of Man back in April, leaving it without a flag state. Furthermore, both vessels also have been deregistered by the Lloyd’s Register and the DMV.
What are Lloyd’s Register and DMV
They are two of the most prominent international maritime classification societies that focus on ensuring vessels are up to modern, seaworthy standards. They inspect vessels as they are built and every five years subsequently to offer certifications. Lloyd’s Register is said to be the world’s first marine classification society that was created more than 260 years ago. Back in March, the organization had announced its decision to “disengage from the provision of all services to Russian owned, controlled or managed assets or companies” as a response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Getting decertified from either of the classification societies means these vessels are now unable to sail legally and won’t be able to get maritime insurance.
What could be the possible repercussions?
In all probability, both MY Nord and Motor Yacht A currently have an all-Russian crew, which is necessary if they are sailing under the Russian flag. In the case of Nord, it’s highly unlikely that the superyacht has been seized by Russia and is under the control of its government. However, there is a history of Russia forcefully taking over private entities and gaining control of assets. Moreover, any vessel registered in Russia won’t be able to sail anywhere in Europe, the UK, the US, or any Western part of the world.
It would also be very difficult for its owners to sell the superyachts in case they decide to do so. However, most of these issues were already there even before the superyachts were re-registered. So it barely makes any real-world difference. It’ll be interesting to see if other superyachts linked to sanctioned Russian oligarchs that are yet to be seized follow the same tactic.