Today the Guardian reported that the UK may restrict Russian ships from using British ports after it emerged that an oil tanker owned by Sovcomflot, Russia’s largest shipping company, will dock in Orkney this week.
The NS Champion is a Liberian flagged crude oil tanker built in July 2005 and is inspected by the Norweigan classification society DNV. The ship’s owner, Sovcomflot, is majority-owned by the Russian state. Shares of Sovcomflot have fallen 50% in the past ten days but bounced 15% on Friday as the company’s ships continued to sail uneffected by sanctions and as the broader market shrugged off the Russian invasion.
“To the dismay of politicians and islanders the UK government had advised that at present the vessel cannot be refused permission to dock,” reports The Guardian. “A UK government spokesperson indicated there were a number of Russian vessels scheduled to dock at British ports, despite the intensifying trade embargos against Russian businesses and state entities.”
Sources close the the matter say talk about a policy change began yesterday after France impounded a Russian cargo ship carrying cars suspected of being linked to Russians targeted by sanctions implemented by the US Treasury Department. According to another source, local politicians acted after being pressed by protestors at the port.
“We are aware of concerns about Russian-connected ships potentially docking in the UK and we are working rapidly to explore a range of measures to restrict access for them,” a UK spokesperson told the Guardian. “We are already discussing this issue with the Scottish government and the sanctions being considered are part of a wider package being worked up across the UK government.”
Angus Robertson, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for external affairs, told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show: “The UK authorities have got a big decision to take, on whether we are going to allow Russian-owned or charted vessels to dock in UK ports. The Scottish government is in discussions with the UK authorities about this particular case but there will be others.”
“This is a very fast moving situation,” said Robertson. “We are going to have to act decisively in my view.”
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has written to Boris Johnson urging him to take action.
“Like right thinking people across the United Kingdom, the people of Orkney have been sickened by what we have seen on our television screens of the Russian attack on Ukraine,” he wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister. “We expect you, as our prime minister, to act to stop this continued trade that is earning money to fund the slaughter of Ukrainian citizens. It is imperative… that you should act without delay to ensure that Sovcomflot is sanctioned and denied access for their vessels to British ports.”
A spokeswoman for Repsol Sinopec, which operates the Flotta oil terminal told the BBC that the NS Champion was due to arrive on Tuesday. “We are liaising with regulatory authorities regarding the appropriate provision of access to facilities,” she added.
BBC – Ukraine: Anger over Russian oil tanker due in Orkney
TheGuardian – UK considers banning Russian ships from British ports
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