France Seizes Oligarch’s Yacht and Detains Multiple Merchant Ships
French authorities are increasing their enforcement efforts under the European sanctions against Russia both detaining commercial merchant ships and in a high-profile action announced they had seized a superyacht linked to one of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs. France’s minister of the economy, Bruno Le Maire thanked customs officials for their efforts citing offenses under the newly imposed sanctions.
Customs inspectors boarded the superyacht Amore Vero, a 281-foot vessel registered in the Cayman Islands that features amenities rivaling those of a deluxe cruise ship, late on March 2. According to the minister the vessel had arrived at a French shipyard in La Ciotat near Marseilles on January 3 for three months of scheduled maintenance.
“At the time of the inspection, the ship was making arrangements to get underway urgently, without having completed the planned work,” said Le Maire in a press release. He reported that customs undertook a check lasting several hours before seizing the vessel. Le Maire said that they had determined that the vessel was owned by a company in which Igor Setchine, the head of the Russian oil company Rosneft, is believed to be the main shareholder. “This vessel fell within the scope of the freezing measures,” the minister announced.
Representatives for the owners of the vessel are however disputing the French statements contending that Setchine had no interest in their company. Built in the Netherlands in 2013 at an estimated cost of $120 million, the yacht originally sailed as the St. Princess Olga but was reportedly sold in 2018 possibly as part of a divorce settlement. The vessel has accommodations for 14 passengers and 28 crew. The vessel reportedly has a top speed of 20 knots and a cruising radius of 4,000 nautical miles.
While French authorities are saying the yacht has been seized, they are reporting that several merchant ships are also being detained and undergoing inspections to determine if they should be “frozen” based on the sanctions.
The bulk carrier Pola Ariake arrived from Ukraine at the port of Lorient, France early on Monday, February 28. The vessel registered in Panama reportedly has a cargo of 27,000 tons of soybean meal aboard and is manned by a crew of 20 Russian and Ukrainian sailors. French authorities are however saying that Paola Maritime is the manager and that the vessel’s ownership is linked to the Russian Ministry of Transport. The investigation is ongoing to determine if the vessel will be permitted to resume operations.
Similarly, in the port of Fos-sur-Mer near Marseille, a smaller Russian-register general cargo ship is also being detained. Victor Andryukhin, an 8,172 dwt vessel arrived at the port on Sunday traveling only with ballast. Built in 2021, the vessel is reportedly manned by 12 Russian crew. French officials have detained the vessel keeping the crew onboard while they investigate.
On Saturday, France intercepted the ro/ro cargo ship Baltic Leader shortly after it departed Rouen heading for St. Petersburg. The vessel docked at the French port of Boulogne-Sur-Mer and remains detained at the port. French officials are linking ownership of the vessel to the son of a former Russian intelligence officer saying that the ship violated the sanctions.