« Roman Abramovich’s $600m (£458m) superyacht Solaris has left a port in Turkey after the London-based company that operates the terminal which had been harbouring the oligarch’s yacht was pressed to act » says Rupert Neate in The Guardian.
Solaris, which is 140 metres long and has a helipad and swimming pool, left Bodrum Cruise Port on Monday. It is now at anchor off Yalikavak beach in south-western Turkey, according to the shipping data service Marine Traffic.
Pressure had been building for Global Ports Holding (GPH), the Mayfair-headquartered company that runs Bodrum Cruise Port, to refuse services to Solaris.
Legal experts had said the London-listed company was taking “a very big risk” by allowing a superyacht owned by a sanctioned individual to use one of its ports. The Bodrum port is one of 22 terminals run by the firm.
Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club, is one of several Russian billionaires hit by UK sanctions last month as part of the government’s efforts to put pressure on Vladimir Putin to end the invasion of Ukraine. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, described the sanctioned individuals as having “the blood of the Ukrainian people on their hands”.
A spokesperson for Global Ports Holding declined to comment on why Solaris had left the port.
In a statement on Sunday, the company said it did not have “any power to accept or reject any ship or yacht” from the port but it had taken the decision to “not receive any service fee or other payments concerning the berthing of this superyacht”.
“Global Ports Holding plc notes recent press speculation regarding the berthing at Bodrum Yolcu Liman İşletmeleri AŞ (Bodrum Cruise Port), Turkey, of a superyacht, allegedly owned by a designated person subject to sanctions imposed by the UK government,” GPH said.
“As a private terminal operator in Turkey, GPH merely operates Bodrum Cruise Port as the concessionaire and is not involved in granting permission for a ship or a yacht to dock at the port. This responsibility and decision sit with the Turkish authorities, and as concessionaire, GPH must comply with such a decision as long as the decision is legal under the applicable laws.
“However, and notwithstanding the difficulties of any party to correctly identify the actual ownership of such assets, GPH has not and will not receive any service fee or other payments concerning the berthing of this superyacht at Bodrum Cruise Port.”
The company said the berthing of Solaris did not breach UK sanction laws because “the alleged offence has taken place at a port outside the United Kingdom where GPH does not have any ownership or any power to accept or reject any ship or yacht pursuant to the applicable laws”.
Solaris arrived at Bodrum Cruise Port on 22 March after hurriedly leaving a port in Barcelona, where it was undergoing repairs, as EU countries began seizing sanctioned individuals’ assets.
Ukrainian protesters tried to stop Solaris mooring at the port. Members of the Optimist Sailing Team Ukraineconfronted the vessel in a small boat, chanting “No war in Ukraine” and waving the country’s flag. They were part of a junior sailing team that was in Turkey to compete in an annual competition, having left Ukraine before the invasion.
Turkey has refused to impose sanctions on Russians, despite the UK, US and EU uniting to restrict oligarchs believed to have benefited from close relationships with Putin. The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said the oligarchs were “of course” welcome and could do business in Turkeyaccording to international law.
Another, even larger, superyacht owned by Abramovich is moored in Turkey. Eclipse, which at 162.5 metres is believed to be the world’s second largest superyacht, arrived at the port of Marmaris on 22 March.
Reports suggest that Abramovich owns as many as five superyachts worth more than $1bn (£762m) in total. Another yacht linked to the billionaire, Garcon, is now berthed in Antigua.
The Antiguan government has asked for the UK’s assistance to seize the vessel. Ronald Sanders, the country’s ambassador to the US, told Reuters: “We’ve said that we’re quite happy to cooperate, but under the rule of law. The only way we can [seize the vessel] is if the British, in their mutual legal assistance treaty request, establish that this is a person they want because he has committed some crime.”
The Guardian, April 4, 2022, Rupert Neate, Photo/Yoruk Isik/Reuters