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French Navy Detains Russian Ro/Ro for Sanctions Violations

baltic leader
Short trip: the French Navy intercepted the Baltic Leader in the English Channel overnight Friday (Courtesy Pole Star)

Published Feb 26, 2022 4:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

The French Navy has intercepted and detained the Russian-flagged ro/ro Baltic Leader for suspected violations of EU sanctions on certain Russian companies. 

The Baltic Leader departed Rouen on Friday morning and headed for the English Channel, bound for St. Petersburg, according to AIS tracking provided by Pole Star. At about 0015 hours on Saturday morning, her speed dropped to six knots and she altered course for the port of Boulougne-sur-Mer, arriving at 0230. 

“A 127-meter long Russia cargo ship called the ‘Baltic Leader’ transporting cars has been intercepted overnight by the French navy in the Channel and escorted to the Port of Boulogne-Sur-Mer in northern France," a French official told BBC. “It has been taken to the French port after a request by the French government because it is suspected of belonging to a company targeted by EU sanctions against Moscow."

French border forces are inspecting the ship, and the crew is cooperating, the official said. 

Baltic Leader is a 2000-built ro/ro owned by Russian operator Transmorflot and managed by PSB Leasing, according to her Equasis record. PSB Leasing is a ship finance division of Promsvyazbank (PSB), which has been sanctioned by the United States and the EU in connection with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

In a statement, PSB insisted that it is not the owner of the Baltic Leader, though it is listed as the ship manager/commercial manager. 

Other vessels with a recently-recorded connection to PSB Leasing include the ro/ro Stella-Maria (IMO 9220641); the tankers Linda and Pegas (IMO 9256858 and 9256860); and the general cargo ships Maliy B.S., Viktoria Shain and Neptun (IMO 9349289, 9349291 and 9358010). All are flagged in Russia, according to their Equasis records. 

Two of these vessels are currently within reach of national authorities. Pegas - which is explicitly named in U.S. sanctionsis currently located in Turkish territorial waters, just outside of the port of Marmara. Neptun is at anchor just off the coast of Tirana, Albania.