Antigua: Abandoned Russian Superyacht Could Pose Safety Hazard

Alfa Nero
Alfa Nero in better times during a port call in Monaco (Remii / CC BY SA 3.0)

Published Mar 20, 2023 11:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

The government of Antigua and Barbuda has an interest in selling off an abandoned Russian superyacht in a hurry, and not just because of the maintenance costs it is racking up. The luxurious yacht Alfa Nero could pose a threat to the environment and private property in the event of a casualty, according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, especially as the 267-foot vessel is not believed to be insured. 

Alfa Nero has been linked to Russian billionaire Andrey Guryev, owner of fertilizer maker PhosAgro and confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Guryev was sanctioned by the U.S. government in early 2022 in connection with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, so when Alfa Nero appeared in Falmouth Harbor, the FBI arranged with local authorities to raid it and question the crew for evidence of  ownership. 

No one has stepped forward to lay claim to the vessel, so Antigua has moved to seize the yacht and auction it off to the highest bidder. This is an essential move to control risk to the environment and to local businesses, Prime Minister Browne told local media on Monday.  

"There could be a fire. In fact, I am told the insurance of the marina could be affected because we have an uninsured vessel sitting in the marina and it is a risk to other boats," he told the Antigua Observer. "We are talking about billions of dollars of assets in that harbor. And you can imagine if that vessel was to catch fire what will happen."

Last week, Browne's administration took the unusual step of pushing through a legislative amendment to ensure that the vessel's sale could not be contested. The island nation's small parliament considered and passed the bill in a single day, despite a walkout staged by opposition members in protest over the short timeline. 

Browne's office wants the auction to proceed quickly, before the hurricane season, and the vessel could go on the block within months. The government plans to keep the proceeds from the sale of the vessel, according to the Antigua Observer.