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Crew on Russian-owned superyachts urged to join trade union

Industry stakeholders have banded together to urge crewmembers to sign up to Nautilus International…

Nautilus International, an international trade union and professional association representing seafarers and allied workers, is encouraging crew members to sign up as members. The organisation can help and assist with pay and condition disputes, offer free legal service to its members, and provide workplace support to seafarers. However, this support can only be offered once the individual is a registered member. Protection and legal services can not be guaranteed to those who have signed up after an incident has occurred.

The majority of Russian-owned superyachts, which make up around 10% of the superyacht fleet, have already left Europe for the likes of The Maldives and Seychelles. However, there are still a number of large yachts operating on the continent. In the event that the owners of these vessels are sanctioned, one must also consider the thousands of crew members, shipyard workers, and independent business owners who would also be affected by this.

Nations and global organizations around the world have stepped up sanctions against Russian-owned luxury assets;

Josep Borrell, The EU, stated,

The EU sanctions include hidden assets such as yachts owned by Russian oligarchs but flying the flag of another country in the Med - this was in response to a question from Naomi O’Leary of the Irish Times.

Grant Shapps, Secretary state of Transport UK stated,

‘Today I've written to all UK ports asking them not to provide access to any Russian flagged, registered, owned, controlled, chartered or operated vessels. Given Putin's action in Ukraine I've made clear these vessels are NOT welcome here with prohibiting legislation to follow.

The White House said in a tweet, 

“This coming week, we will launch a multilateral Transatlantic task force to identify, hunt down, and freeze the assets of sanctioned Russian companies and oligarchs – their yachts, their mansions, and any other ill-gotten gains that we can find and freeze under the law.”

Prince Albert of Monaco stated,

“The Principality has adopted and implemented, without delay, procedures for freezing funds and economic sanctions identical to those taken by most European States.”

Laura Molineux, strategic organiser at Nautilus has provided the following responses to questions that may be of interest to crew and other stakeholders of the superyacht industry…

- What is your advice for Crew working on Russian-owned superyachts?

We are recommending that crew keep alert and complete new risk assessments. Consider increasing/reviewing the security checks currently in place and report anything suspicious to the authorities (especially following this story.) 

There are also issues around entering the Black Sea. 

Following an emergency meeting of the Warlike Operations Area Committee (WOAC), which Nautilus is a member of, it was recommended on 25th February that a warlike operations area be declared with immediate effect for all Ukrainian, Russian and International Waters North of 44°North in the Black Sea.  

Similarly, the Joint War Committee (comprised of underwriting representatives from both the Lloyd’s and IUA markets) published that Ukrainian and Russian waters in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are also considered warlike listed areas. As a result it is unlikely that a yacht owner would intend to enter the area at this time, especially as the vessel’s insurance would likely not apply coverage.

However, if that is the owner’s intention crew should be given the opportunity to leave the vessel prior to this, at a port that can facilitate their repatriation.

 - What is Nautilus doing for crew apart from encouraging people to sign up?

Nautilus can provide representation and assistance to all ranks and nationalities working onboard yachts, including deck, engine, and interior crew. Whatever your nationality, country of residence or role, members can access help from our team of industry experts and organisers.

The Union operates a 24/7 helpline, so members can call us anytime from anywhere in the world for support. We not only have in-house legal expertise, but also a network of lawyers around the globe.

 - Are there any worst/best case scenarios that you can anticipate and that you feel crew should be aware of?

There are a lot of unknowns at the moment, and the situation could change without notice. However, it is likely that further sanctions will impact yachts in the coming days or weeks to some degree.

The UK Secretary of State for Transport has announced that Russian flagged vessels – or those believed to be registered, owned or controlled by any person in connection with Russia – are banned from entering UK Ports.

We understand that seafarers are concerned about the possibility of financial sanctions that could apply to wealthy Russian yacht owners. At this stage we are aware that it is not a blanket application to all wealthy Russians, however, the list could be reviewed or extended. 

If a yacht owner is sanctioned to the point of having their assets frozen, this would impact the operation of the vessel. Joseph Borrell, EU High Representative confirmed that the EU sanctions include hidden assets, such as yachts owned by Russian oligarchs but flying the flag of another country in the Mediterranean. There could also be issues if SWIFT payments are halted, as this has implications for salary payments.

Nautilus would look at each member’s case individually to assess the situation applicable to them and provide them with advice, assistance and representation. Nautilus is monitoring the situation closely and preparing/updating information for our members as things develop. However, it is important that crew join Nautilus before a situation arises, as crew will not be eligible for legal representation if the matter pre-dates their membership.  Once in membership, crew should contact the Union as soon as they are aware that an issue is going to have an impact on them. 

 - Do you have a discounted membership or incentive for crew working on Russian-owned yachts?

The current subscription for an officer working on a yacht is €335 and €230 for crew, per year. This can be paid in full, half-yearly, quarterly or monthly. This is the equivalent of only €6.44 for officers and €4.42 crew a week, and they have the support of the Union behind them.

At the time of writing, it is the 6th day of the war in Ukraine and the situation appears to be escalating. The wider and mainstream media have reported heavily on the superyacht industry, largely because of its connotations with greed, exuberance, and the Russian Oligarchy. However, the media has failed to take into account the thousands of seafarers, shipyard workers, and business owners who rely on the industry to maintain a living. By providing this insight Nautilus hope to provide some clarity to those with an uncertain future who have been left questioning whether to choose their morality over well-being.

On-shore there have been countless efforts to support the war aid from stakeholders of the superyacht industry. Aside from organisations, individuals have also banded together to ensure procedures and solutions are implemented swiftly and securely. Margarita Amam, Managing director of IMS GMBH and Nineke Pretorius, a former crew member, have been contacting superyacht crew to ensure there is communication between crew members and on-shore developments regarding the support of Nautilus. Pretorius, who no longer works on yachts due to medical reasons, told SuperyachtNews:

“I suffered a bad injury onboard and unfortunately I was not a member of Nautilus - therefore I am advocating for any crew member who is willing to listen as there are many situations onboard where the crew are not protected as they should be and this is where Nautilus helps so much.”

There has also been a GoFundMe page set up on behalf of the superyacht community and members of the superyacht industry based in Monaco have also been in contact with the councilors and MPs in Poland to send donations to the border in Ukraine. If any of our readers would like to get in touch about developments regarding the Ukraine Crisis and its impact on the yacht market feel free to send us an email. We welcome contributions and insights from any and all of our readers around the world.

Nautilus International is offering yacht professionals who join before the end of March more than 30% off a full membership for the first year, as the Union seeks to extend protection to more seafarers who are likely to have their work affected by the crisis.

Sign up to Nautilus here - https://www.nautilusint.org/en/join/join-online/

 

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