White House Plans to Ban All Russian Ships from American Ports

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Published Apr 21, 2022 5:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Biden administration announced Thursday that it plans to ban all Russian-linked ships from American ports, joining the UK and Canada. The European Union has a similar but less stringent ban on Russian-flagged ships, with broad exemptions for Russian-controlled but foreign-flagged vessels. 

“[This] means no ship, no ship that sails under the Russian flag or that is owned or operated by a Russian entity will be allowed to dock in a United States port or access our shores. None,”  President Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday. 

The measure is unlikely to have a significant impact on Russian shipping. The U.S. has already banned the most important Russian export commodity, crude oil, and Russian vessels make up a minute fraction of the traffic at American seaports. In 2021, Russian vessels made only 1,800 port calls in the United States, according to Reuters.

However, the ban represents an  important symbolic message about America's resolve to isolate the Russian economy in response to the invasion of Ukraine. 

“This is yet another critical step we are taking in concert with our partners in the European Union, United Kingdom and Canada in further to deny Russia the benefits of the international economic system that they so enjoyed in the past,” Biden said. 

The American Maritime Partnership, the voice of the U.S. shipping industry, suggested that the ban illustrated the need for a strong domestic maritime sector. 

“The President’s ban on Russian ships from U.S. ports announced today is yet another reminder of why this nation has demanded a strong American Maritime for more than a century. A capable domestic maritime industry ensures that U.S. national security, homeland security, and economic security are not reliant on global competitors and adversaries. Without a strong American Maritime, our nation would be at the mercy of foreign entities like Russia,” said Ku’uhaku Park, President of the American Maritime Partnership, in a statement Thursday.

The UK and Canada have already implemented a complete ban on Russian-linked ships, though Russian cargoes may still arrive aboard other vessels. 

The European Union has implemented a partial ban on Russian-flagged shipping, with an exemption for energy cargoes and for Russian-owned/operated vessels that are flagged with open registries. Greek officials have already used the ban to seize one Russian-flagged tanker, the Pegas, which was also covered by U.S. sanctions on the Russian government. The 115,000 dwt crude tanker was detained off the coast of the island of Evia in mid-April; however, Greece determined that it did not have the legal authority to hold her, and she has been released.