To defy sanctions and avoid seizure, Russia’s richest man is now sailing his $500 million North megayacht under the Russian flag. Another sanctioned billionaire could sail his $300 million designer yacht under the flag of the Emirates.
The United States 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 invading Ukraine. Last week, the United States finally took full control of MY Amadea after it was cleared by the Supreme Court of Fiji, ending weeks of legal and administrative hurdles. The luxury yacht linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov left the island nation on Tuesday carrying an American flag, making it the first to do so. However, several Russian-owned superyachts that have managed to avoid seizure so far have lost their flag states thanks to the crippling sanctions.
With nowhere to go, these superyachts are now forced to sail under new flags. For example, Motor Yacht A and Nord – two of the most prominent superyachts owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs – now sail under the flags of the Emirates and Russia respectively, as vlogger and superyacht expert eSysman SuperYachts has pointed out.
Nord and Motor Yacht A are currently in friendly waters, protected from Western authorities. Owned by steel billionaire Alexei Mordashov, the $500 million MY Nord performed aggressive and dangerous maneuvers while keeping its tracking system turned off to avoid capture.
Last April, the superyacht with a British crew fled the Seychelles to Vladivostok, a port on Russia’s east coast. At one point, the ship’s destination was set at Busan in South Korea. However, this must have been a tactic to confuse authorities attempting to capture the ship. Currently, the ship is said to sport 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 sailing under the flag of the Emirates, according to superyacht expert YouTube. However, there is no evidence to support the claim. The blade-shaped ship has had its tracking transponders turned off since March and its last broadcast location was somewhere in the Maldives. But the 119-meter pleasure boat was spotted in the United Arab Emirates by the Financial Times on April 18, moored opposite the fish market in downtown Ras al-Khaimah. The YouTuber also claims the superyacht was tracked by an Iranian warship en route to the United Arab Emirates. Motor Yacht A was deregistered by the Isle of Man in April, leaving her without a flag state. In addition, both vessels have also been deregistered by Lloyd’s Register and DMV.
What are Lloyd’s Register and DMV
They are two of the most important international maritime classification societies that ensure that ships are up to modern standards and seaworthy. They inspect ships as they are built and every five years thereafter to offer certifications. Lloyd’s Register is said to be the world’s first marine classification society established over 260 years ago. Last March, the organization announced its decision to “disengage from providing any services to Russian-owned, controlled or operated assets or companies” in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Being decertified from either classification society means that these vessels can no longer sail legally and will not be able to obtain marine insurance.
What could be the possible repercussions?
In all likelihood, MY Nord and Motor Yacht A currently have an all-Russian crew, which is necessary if sailing under the Russian flag. In the case of Nord, it is highly unlikely that the superyacht was seized by Russia and is under the control of its government. However, there is a history where Russia has forcibly taken over private entities and taken control of assets. Additionally, any vessel registered in Russia will not 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 her owners to sell the superyachts should they decide to do so. However, most of these problems already existed even before the superyachts were re-registered. So it makes almost no difference in the real world. It will be interesting to see if other superyachts linked to sanctioned Russian oligarchs that have yet to be seized follow the same tactic.