ESPO Calls for Uniform Application of the EU Port Ban on Russian Ships

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Published Apr 18, 2022 5:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

The European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) is calling for uniform, clear application of the newly-imposed EU port ban on Russian-flagged vessels, which was adopted on April 8 as part of the fifth round of EU sanctions on Russia. 

The sanction package includes a ban on Russian-flagged vessels from EU ports, except for ships carrying agricultural and food products, humanitarian aid and energy. The last category is a critical exemption, as the most important Russian export commodities are oil and gas, and Russian-flagged tankers will continue to be able to legally call in Europe. The sanctions measures also exempt all Russian-owned, -financed or -managed vessels that are flagged outside of Russia.

In a statement, ESPO endorsed the new sanctions and expressed condemnation of the invasion. It also called on European leaders to ensure a uniform application of the sanctions across the bloc, keeping implementation harmonized to maintain a level playing field among competing ports. This would prevent "port shopping" by Russian ships. 

Like the British Ports Association (BPA), which has called for a formal government list of all vessels affected by sanctions, ESPO also called for the European Maritime Safety Agency to draft a uniform list of banned Russian ships. This would take the guesswork out of enforcement and make sure that all ports were banning all the same ships. ESPO noted that the list should take into account any vessels that have flagged out or re-registered since the start of the invasion on February 24.

To ensure a smooth implementation process, ESPO called on EU authorities and national governments to assign enough staff and resources to the task of enforcement.

"The ban on Russian vessels from EU ports as well as the import and export bans on different categories of goods implies a lot of additional checks to be done in ports to control and determine which vessels and cargo are covered by the ban and which ones are to be exempted," said ESPO. "Blocked cargo and ships could create additional congestion in ports and in terminals in ports, which are already facing the consequences of a saturated supply chain."