Russian superyacht ‘hides’ to avoid sanctions

Many superyachts linked to Russian oligarchs are evading Western sanctions by turning off the Automatic Identification System.

Last week, many tourists on the eastern Caribbean island of Antigua were able to see the superyacht Alfa Nero moored in the area. This $120 million luxury black-body superyacht linked to Russian billionaire Andrey Guryev has disappeared from global maritime tracking since Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine at the end of February. .

Weekly newspaper investigation Observer, England shows Alfa Nero and at least 6 other Russian superyachts turning off the Automatic Identification System (AIS) to “hide” from Western sanctions. The owners of these yachts seem to have realized the danger of being targeted in the global hunt for the wealth of Russia’s super-rich.

Superyacht Alfa Nero, believed to be linked to Russian billionaire Andrey Guryev, in Antigua, Caribbean Sea, last week.  Photo: Guardian.

Superyacht Alfa Nero, believed to be linked to Russian billionaire Andrey Guryev, in Antigua, Caribbean Sea, last week. Image: Guardian.

The world has about 9,300 superyachts with a total value of 63 billion USD, 10% of which are owned by Russians. Since the war in Ukraine broke out, at least 13 yachts with a total value of more than 2.5 billion USD have been confiscated by countries under Western sanctions.

Analysts say a growing number of Russian yachts are turning off their AIS systems, which are used to track large ships. Vessels can turn off AIS for good reason, but experts believe some yachts disable the system to avoid detection. A crew member on a Russian superyacht sanctioned by Britain last week told the Observer that they were “required to turn off AIS”.

The last location of the Alfa Nero superyacht recorded on the AIS system was in Phillipsburg, the capital of the island nation of Sint Maarten in the Caribbean Sea on March 3.

Andrey Guryev, 62-year-old Russian billionaire, owner of fertilizer group PhosAgro, is said to be the owner of superyacht Alfa Nero. He is said to have bought Witanhurst, London’s largest mansion, for $63 million in 2008. Sources say Mr. Guryev often travels with his family on the Alfa Nero yacht.

The superyacht Alfa Nero, believed to be linked to Russian billionaire Andrey Guryev, sails at sea.  Photo: Boat International.

The superyacht Alfa Nero, believed to be linked to Russian billionaire Andrey Guryev, sails at sea. Image: Boat International.

Among other superyachts that have disappeared on AIS recently are the Ocean Victory, which is associated with steel tycoon Viktor Rashnikov, the Galactica Super Nova, which is believed to be owned by oil tycoon Lukoil Vagit Alekperov, and My Sky, which is linked. with tobacco magnate Igor Kesaev…

The final positions of Ocean Victory and My Sky were recorded by AIS in the Maldives, an island nation that does not have an extradition treaty with the US. At least five yachts believed to be Russian-owned have sailed into Russian waters since the Ukraine war broke out. Other ships, including two owned by billionaire Roman Abramovich, have headed to Turkey.

According to maritime rules, the AIS must be active at all times while the vessel is moving or moored. Cruise ships usually report their location regularly, but can turn off AIS while in port.

“Some yachts used to send AIS signals every few minutes, but now it’s every few months,” said Sam Tucker, from VessesValue, a global marine data provider. “It looks like someone flipped the switch and put the train into stealth mode.”

Duc Trung (Theo Guardian)

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