It was a day in February 2017 when the world’s largest sailing yacht made headlines, not for its grandeur but for being impounded in Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Port Authority took action over claims that its billionaire owner, Andrey Melnichenko, owed Nobiskrug, the shipyard in northern Germany that built the vessel, $16.3 million. The 469-foot Sailing Yacht A was on its way to be delivered to the Russian industrialist but following a legal filing from Nobiskrug it was halted. The German shipyard was demanding an outstanding payment of $10.3 million and $8 million for subcontractors and interest charges.
A top Gibraltar court official, Admiralty Marshal Liam Yeats, told the BBC, “The vessel is under arrest and is currently at anchor in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.” A spokesman for Mr. Melnichenko described it as “a technical problem,” saying, “We are confident that the yacht will be handed over to the owner’s project team in the coming days, and this unfortunate episode will be over.” As per the protocols of the Gibraltar Port Authority, two armed guards would have been placed on the seized vessel for safeguard the ship and its contents.
At the time, according to Forbes, oligarch Melnichenko was leading Russia’s fertilizer, coal, and energy sectors, with a net worth of $13.2 billion. His current net worth is almost a whopping $25 billion.
Sailing Yacht A, a Bermuda-registered mammoth, is an exceptional vessel, ahead of its time with three masts taller than Big Ben’s clock tower. The Philippe Starck-designed yacht is packed with luxe amenities like a helipad, swimming pool, and an underwater observation pod. The eight-decker is serviced by a crew 54 who look after 20 guests.
The shipbuilder’s managing director, Holger Kahl, best explained the marvel of this luxury vessel, “Born from the desire of the owner to ‘push the boundaries of engineering and challenge the status quo of the industry,’ Sailing Yacht A is undoubtedly one of the most visionary projects Nobiskrug has ever been involved in.”
Melnichenko’s project director, Dirk Kloosterman, said, “This has been the most challenging assignment of my career. I am confident Sailing Yacht A will be the world’s greatest yacht in terms of design and technology for the years ahead. Her beauty is breathtaking, and Philippe Starck’s astonishing design and ultimate vision will be the subject of many conversations wherever she travels around the globe. We look forward to the final delivery to the owner.” The claims were made against Valla Yachts Ltd, the Bermuda company that was stated as the owner of the yacht.
In 2022, the Russian billionaire found himself on the EU sanctions list, which led to the tycoon’s gargantuan Sailing Yacht A being seized by the Italian police. The one-of-a-kind megayacht is in a special dry dock at the northern port of Trieste. Talk about unrequited love.