Spain moves yacht linked to Russian oligarch after payments stop: report

Spanish authorities have moved Russia-linked luxury yacht Valerie / Meridian A (IMO 1010624) after the shipyard where it was berthed stopped receiving payments for its repairs, a transport ministry source told Reuters

The Valerie was said to have been transferred to a marina last month, an example of the logistical challenges that ports and the authorities have faced managing the vessels that are being held across Europe because of the sanctions imposed over Russia’s military actions in Ukraine.

As port-watchers will know, when a superyacht is in town the number of places where it can be berthed is not large, and none of those places is designed for long-term residence.

Spanish authorities had frozen the vessel, meaning that it could neither be used nor sold, in March, as part of EU sanctions. The yacht has been linked to Sergei Chemezov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Payments for the ship’s repairs at Barcelona’s MB92 shipyard apparently stopped soon after the freezing order. The MB92 yard asked the authorities to relocate the ship so that its berth could be used, the source added. The Valerie is now moored in the nearby Marina Vela marina; its name has been changed to the Meridian A. The yacht was moved on September 20th by maritime authority officials and escorted by Spain’s civil guard police.

The yacht first displayed its new name on September 19th, a day before it was relocated, according to analytics provider MarineTraffic.

The situation with the Valerie is probably far from unique, with many owners of frozen boats probably asking why they should pay the berthing and maintenance costs for a vessel that they have no imminent hope of using.

Six vessels in Spain have been frozen following sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, and the running costs of a frozen yacht remain the owner’s responsibility. But the leverage of the holders of the yacht when it comes to asking for payment is also minimal.

Chemezov has been under EU and U.S. sanctions since 2014 over Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He was also named in sanctions imposed by Australia in March over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 85-metre Valerie / Meridian A has been valued at some $140m – although it had previously been valued at $180m and was reported to have been offered for sale earlier this year for just $100m – and is formally owned by Chemezov’s stepdaughter, Anastasia Ignatova, according to the EU sanctions list, to which she was added in April.

The freezing of the vessel in situ was challenged in Spanish courts in March by Sulberg Services Ltd, a company registered by Equasis as the yacht’s owner. Sulberg Services argued that Spanish authorities could not prove who owned the yacht and therefore could not freeze it. A Madrid court rejected the claim in April.

Other sanctioned Russians are understood to have been paying for the upkeep of yachts frozen in France and Spain using an obscure European law, adopted as domestic legislation, that allows such payments. As of October 22nd the vessel remained moored at Barcelona.

2011-built, 2,755 gt, St Vincent and Grenadines-flagged Valerie is owned by Sulberg Services Ltd and managed by Royale Oceanic International Yacht Management Ltd of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK.