Thousands of crew affected by Russia sanctions


Up to 4,500 crew working on superyachts owned by Russians are being impacted by sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine. Some have reportedly lost their jobs, while others fear non- payment of their wages, according to industry sources consulted by Superyacht Investor (SYI).

About 11% of all superyacht crew work on Russian-owned vessels, revealed figures from The Superyacht Agency (TSA). More than one quarter (29%) of all superyachts sized 295ft (90m) and above are Russian-owned. It identifies 370 yachts over 98ft (30m) in length as being under Russian ownership, which equates to around 8.8% of the total fleet.

Russian-owned superyachts of greater than 295ft (90m) in length employ more crew overall than every yacht in the 98-131ft (30-40m) bracket.

Benjamin Maltbly, partner, Keystone Law told SYI: “Crew [on seized yachts] are in a very difficult position. There are those who are worried about receiving payment. Crew members who are concerned about not receiving payment … should leave their post. The ones who haven’t [left already] must be confident of being paid one way or another.”

It remains unclear whether the crew of sanctioned superyachts will be paid, a spokesperson from the 20,000-member strong crew union, Nautilus, told SYI: “Most [crew members] are expecting to be paid at the end of this month. Whether it is because the money was withheld prior to the sanctions or in a holding account of sorts, we are not sure. It will all become much clearer in a few days’ time.”

Some sanctioned entities have been able to continue to operate despite the sanctions. This has been achieved by applying for a ‘General Licence’ from HM Treasury, through the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI), like the one that was granted to Chelsea Football Club. Several  superyacht agencies are understood to have applied for similar exemptions.

“We do know of one crew recruiter that has requested to continue to operate through the OFSI in order to keep crew members in employment,” said the Nautilus spokesperson. “They are yet to hear the verdict, but there are grounds to believe they be allowed to continue, similar to how Chelsea are able to operate now.”

Without crew to maintain their assets, owners are likely to face huge depreciation costs. “Without crew, yachts will rust and decay and are likely to have a hugely polluting effect to the port they hare based in,” said the Nautilus spokesperson.

Maltby agrees: “These yachts are often permanently crewed, and for good reasons. If they’re not, then they will very quickly deteriorate and devalue, and left to their own devices, could quite possibly sink and cause polluting effect.”

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