Load of Wood Gets Cargo Ship Detained in Germany for Sanction Violations

cargo ship
Cargo ship put into port for repairs and has become entangled in sanctions (ARRC file photo)

Published Apr 3, 2024 1:18 PM by The Maritime Executive


German customs authorities are detaining a cargo ship that apparently inadvertently ran afoul of the EU’s sanctions on the export of Russian goods. According to the reports in the German media, the Atlantic Navigator II (30,345 dwt) has been stuck in the German Baltic port of Rostock for a month while Customs is investigating the violations.

The general cargo ship which is registered in the Marshall Islands departed Saint Petersburg, Russia on February 29 with reports that she was bound for the United States. However, while still in the Baltic the ship began experiencing propulsion problems and put into Rostock, Germany on March 4 for repairs. Built in 2003, the ship which is 632 feet (193 meters) in length is owned by the CISN Shipping Group of Canada and operated by ARRC Line. The company reports it has been involved in the Atlantic trade since 1995.

After arriving in Germany, Customs undertook a routine inspection of the vessel and discovered it was loaded with 251 containers of birch plywood as well as uranium. ARRC told the German news outlet DPA that it is the only marine carrier licensed to transport Class 7 goods such as Cobalt 60 and low-enriched uranium, which is used in health-care services, food safety, and energy security.

It turns out the problem is not the uranium, but the birch wood. The European Union included the wood in its sanctions imposed on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine. German newspaper Ostsee-Zeitung is reporting the wood came from a company linked to a Russian oligarch who was sanctioned by the West. The United States has not sanctioned either of the cargoes aboard the ship.

After the story began appearing in the German media the port authority issued a brief statement. “Due to EU-sanctioned goods on board, the ship received a detention order from customs. Leaving the port is therefore prohibited.”

The shipping company is protesting the detention while saying it is working with the authorities. It was highlighted that the ship only went to Rostock due to the propulsion problems which turned out to be a problem with its propeller which has now been corrected. The authorities suspect the problem was caused by the icy waters of the Baltic.