Friday, April 8, 2022

Seized Russian Owned Superyachts Cannot Simply be Left to Rot at Their Moorings

Marine Engineers Say Maintenance Schedules Must be Maintained
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – Whilst the staff of the various authorities around the globe have doubtless had fun seeing 'How the Other Half Live' as they seize the yachts and luxury goods belonging to the now out of favour Russian oligarchs, a valid point has been raised by a marine servicing company based in the UK.

Van Ameyde McAuslands has a head office in Hull and a superyacht services division based in Lymington, and is an offshoot of the wider group headquartered in the Netherlands. The company says that the seized superyachts belonging to the Russian tycoons could pose a ‘significant risk’ to ports, harbours and marinas if there is no requirement to ensure the mega yachts, detained under sanction rules, are properly maintained, made safe or deactivated.

In London’s Canary Wharf authorities seized the $38 million Phi. The $75 million Axioma was seized in Gibraltar, and in Trieste, Italy, authorities boarded the $540 million SY A, one of the world’s largest privately owned yachts. In all yachts thought to be worth more than $16 billion are being held across Europe, in Finland, France, Norway, Spain, and Germany.

The three yachts listed above are alleged to belong to Vitaly Vasilievich Kochetkov, owner of Motiv Telecom active in the Urals region of Russia, Dmitry A. Pumpyansky Russian billionaire businessman owner and chairman of OAO TMK, a Russian global manufacturer of steel pipes for the oil and gas industry and Andrey Melnichenko billionaire owner of EuroChem Group, a major fertiliser producer, and the coal company SUEK, respectively.

Normally, the annual upkeep of a mega yacht can exceed $50 million, with flag state requirements calling for minimum manning and planned maintenance. However, according to the surveying firm, there is confusion over who will be responsible for carrying out routine maintenance if any is being carried out at all. Albert Weatherill, Managing Director, Van Ameyde McAuslands, UK points out:

“These vessels need to be as safe as possible on the mooring. If crews are not being paid and walk away or if sanctions prohibit maintenance, what happens if there's a pollution incident? What happens if the vessel comes adrift or catches fire, if there’s theft or the vessel is sabotaged? There are too many unknowns, and in this industry, unknowns often equate to litigation.

“From that moment [of seizure] the yacht, by default, becomes a liability of the state. And without insurance, proper loss prevention measures need to be in place to avoid losses and claims. Potential litigation could run into millions of dollars if assets are not properly made safe or shut down correctly. These are not vessels that can be simply turned off and walked away from.”

Weatherill believes that seizing authorities, flag states, should be aware of the need to take immediate action when a vessel is impounded. Indeed, it is thought that none of the seized yachts to date have been prepared for lay up or surveyed to prevent pollution or disruption to the port.

While it is difficult to predict how long these vessels are going to remain alongside, to make them safe machinery should be deactivated, systems drained down, discharge overboard valves closed, fire systems checked and engines prepared for cold lay-up in accordance with Classification Society and OEM guidelines. He concludes:

“This will prevent any potential damage to machinery, internal cabins, valuables, limiting financial exposure and liability. It will also safeguard against any potential risk to the maritime infrastructure, the environment and the public at large.

“Manning, deterioration, damage, fire, theft, danger to people and property, these are all very serious issues. When vessels are dormant for long periods there is potential for things to go wrong and when there is no insurance safety net to fall back on, it’s a big problem. We’re in unchartered territory.”

Obviously Mr Weatherill and his company have a vested interest in such management, however, even if it unlikely the owners could sue the respective governments as and when (or if) the craft are released from custody, it would be in everybody's interest to ensure they remain in pristine condition, whether or not they are disposed of or returned eventually.

Photo: The superyacht Phi on her mooring at London’s Canary Wharf.