U-Ming Bulker Caught in Latvia for Six Months due to Russian Sanctions
Since the invasion of Ukraine, there has been extensive attention to the numerous bulkers that were caught in the Black Sea ports, but now comes a report from Latvian State TV of a bulker caught in a legal trap due to the sanctions against Russian interests. The 62,500 dwt Asian Majesty, registered in Singapore and operated U-Ming Marine of Taiwan, has been anchored in the Gulf of Riga, Latvia since March 2022 caught in limbo with even the Latvia authorities unable to find a path to release the ship.
The bulker arrived in Riga in March after having partially loaded a cargo of potassium chloride fertilizer in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The vessel continued loading at the Riga fertilizer terminal. With a full load of approximately 55,000 tons of fertilizer loaded the vessel moved to the anchorage waiting for the final export permits. While other ships came and went, the Asian Majesty found herself caught.
The Latvian customs office explains the issue is not the cargo but the ownership of the cargo. They believe it to be owned by a company controlled by Russian oligarch Dmitry Mazepin, who was among the individuals and businesses sanctioned by the European Union after the invasion. Latvia believes the cargo is owned by a Mauritius-based company, United Fertilizers Company Limited, which in turn is controlled by Mazepin. Latvia’s State Environment Service (VVD) is refusing the export permit based on its belief that it is not permitted to release cargo that would financially benefit the sanctioned oligarch.
In August, Latvian TV reports the crew of the vessel issued an appeal for assistance. They reported that they were running low on fuel, and drinking water and had accumulated waste to remove from the ship. While the authorities assisted the crew, and highlight the crew and the ship is not sanctioned, the problem remains on how to release the ship. Latvia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, State Environment Service, Finance and Capital Market Commission, VDD, and Freeport of Riga authority are all cooperating trying to assist the ship.
Officials report while Latvia seeks to assist the ship they have no direct contact with either the owners of the vessel or the owner of the cargo. There is no local ownership or involvement of Latvia companies, which is also complicating the situation.
The solution that was proposed was to offload the cargo into a bonded EU warehouse where it could be held. The Riga fertilizer terminal however reports it can not assist because it was only built to handle the loading of ships. It has no equipment to offload the fertilizer. It is possible that the cargo could be offloaded at an alternative port but then comes the question of the financial cost and who would be responsible.
They are estimating the value of the cargo aboard the Asian Majesty at $17 million. Latvian officials told the local outlet that they are continuing to search for a potential solution and in the meantime, the Asian Majesty and her crew remain at anchor caught in limbo.