British Ports Seek Clarity on Russian Vessel Ban

sovcomflot LNG carrier
File image courtesy Sovcomflot

Published Mar 9, 2022 10:17 PM by The Maritime Executive

Ports in the United Kingdom are looking for more clarity on how to comply with a government ban on Russian-linked vessels - ideally including a list of designated ships.

At the end of February, UK Secretary of State Grant Shapps said that he had written to all British ports to ask them "not to provide access to any Russian flagged, registered, owned, controlled, chartered or operated vessels," with detailed legislation to follow. However, the trade group British Ports Association says that identifying the correct vessels and enforcing this far-reaching ban could prove quite challenging for its members, who have contractual and legal obligations to provide services to vessel operators.

Schapps' memo said that the government "will seek to support UK ports in identifying Russian ships" within the scope of the directive, and will inform UK ports of any known inbound ships that fall under the description - but otherwise, each port is required to determine the compliance status of each vessel on its own. 

This could be a challenge, according to the BPA: the industry has identified about 400 internationally-trading vessels that could fit the "Russian-linked" definition, and the list could evolve as ownership and chartering arrangements change over time. 

“The regulation has put the onus on us. It’s a bit daunting," BPA CEO Richard Ballantyne told FT. He suggested that the task of identifying specific ships might be better assigned to the UK's Maritime Security Directorate and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency - a suggestion which the government has so far declined. 

Several Russian-linked ships have voluntarily diverted away from British ports due to the ban, including two icebreaking LNG carriers from the Yamal LNG facility. So far, however, no British port has had to turn away a Russian vessel directly, BPA told FT.