Boating Business

Russian Oligarchs Continue to Pay for Putin’s War: Yachts are Seized at Netherlands Yards

Yacht Amadea, Russian owned yacht, Russian Oligarchs

The Russian-owned superyacht Amadea was arrested when it entered Fiji for failing to clear customs.

Customs authorities in the Netherlands have impounded 14 superyachts linked to Russia, 12 of which are currently under construction. Fijian police arrested a Russian-flagged superyacht for attempting to enter the country without clearing customs. All of these yachts are believed to be owned by wealthy Russians who are loyal to Vladmir Putin.

In a letter to the Dutch parliament on Wednesday, foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra said the yachts are barred from being formally delivered or handed over to the owners. They also cannot leave the country until investigations into their ownership are concluded.

Serious Sanctions

While there are no Russian-owned yachts longer than 115’ (35 m) anchored in the country, Hoekstra explained that many superyachts are being built and serviced in the Netherlands. Five shipyards are impacted by the move and all are currently cooperating fully with the sanctions.

superyacht under construction, Netherlands yacht yard

Superyacht yards in the Netherlands have many boats under construction for Russian owners.

The superyacht industry is a major economic industry for the Netherlands and records from the Dutch chamber of commerce show that major builders Heesen, Feadship, Damen Shipyards and Oceanco had combined sales of around US$1.66 billion in 2020 alone. 

Hoekstra told parliament that $550 million (€516 million) in assets and $165 million (€155 million) in transactions have been frozen in the Netherlands to date, following some criticism that the country was acting too slowly to follow through with sanctions. A former minister Stef Blok has this week been appointed as the country’s sanction compliance coordinator. His role involves supervising the freezing of Russian assets and seizure of Russian real estate and boats in the country.

“For one of these yachts, the relationship with a person named on European sanctions lists is being examined,” Hoekstra says. More investigations into potential Russian-owned yachts are currently ongoing at fifteen shipyards and five yacht dealers in the Netherlands.

Russian owned yacht, Netherlands impounds yachts

Even when a yacht is finished, there is a ban on exports into Russia, so the owner has no access to it.

Banned Exports

Last month, Asia-Pacific Boating reported that the EU has barred all exports of yachts and boats to Russia in the fourth package of sanctions announced by the European Commission. The sanctions extend to all luxury goods, including recreational boats, planes and cars.

The exact impact of the fourth round of sanctions is yet to be understood. However, several European yards have been downplaying concerns. Ferretti Group, which has an order book valued at $1.36 billion  (€1.272 billion), has issued a statement claiming that less than 3% of its total revenue originates from “areas currently involved in the conflict.”

Sanlorenzo, which has a backlog of $1.16 billion (€1.09 billion), issued a similar statement, claiming that none of its Russian clients have so far been sanctioned. It adds that orders commissioned by Russian clients make up less than 10% of its total order backlog over three financial years.

Ferretti Yachts, Ferretti yacht, Ferretti Group

Ferretti Yachts says its business has not been negatively impacted by sanctions against Russia.

Meanwhile, Heesen has restructured its board — with two Russian members voluntarily stepping down — in response to the Ukraine crisis.

Cooperating Crew

In Fiji, Amadea's crew members were questioned in police custody over failure to secure customs clearances before anchoring in Fijian waters. A luxury vessel owned by a sanctioned Russian oligarch has been arrested by police in Fiji two days after arriving in the country. 

The Marine Traffic website showed Amadea, which is owned by Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, moored at Lautoka Wharf in Fiji on Tuesday, after departing Mexico 18 days prior. The Fiji Times newspaper also published a photograph of the superyacht at the wharf.

Yacht Amadea, Russian owned yacht, Russian Oligarchs

Fijian officials tracked Amadea after she left Central America.

Kerimov is sanctioned by the United States, Britain and the European Union. The Fiji Sun reported that the Fiji Police Force had arrested the US$325 million superyacht, with crew members being questioned in police custody over failure to secure customs clearances.

Brigadier-General Qiliho told the Sun that the yacht had allegedly anchored within Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) before getting the necessary customs clearance. “Vessels that arrive in the Fiji EEZ must get their custom clearance first, which was allegedly breached by the yacht Amadea and is being investigated,” he said. 

He added that the Government was aware the yacht had been headed to Fiji from Central America. “We have agreements with our foreign partners in regard to sanctions against Russian oligarchs,” Qiliho said. “When the yacht was known to be coming in, we have been working with our foreign counterparts in dealing with the situation.”

Yacht Amadea interior, superyacht interior, Zuretti Design group

Amadea’s ornate interior was designed by the Zuretti studio.

Amadea is a 348’ (106 meter) Lürssen superyacht with a dedicated party deck boasting 20,000 watts of built-in speakers, plus lights and lasers. The bow is decorated with a five-ton steel albatross statue, while the galley has a tank for live lobsters. Chief among many extravagances onboard is the yacht’s hand-painted Pleyel piano, which is finished with 24k gold keys and took 18 months to build. 

Article courtesy of Asia-Pacific Boating magazine