The UK government has quickly brought in legislation banning any ships connected to Russia – not just those flying the Russian flag – from UK ports and has brought in new powers to detain Russian vessels.
The ban applies to Russian flagged, registered, owned, controlled, chartered or operated vessels.
European Union countries are also considering a ban on Russian ships entering its ports, aiming to tighten sea restrictions after a halt on air traffic.
On Tuesday, Canada also said it would shut its ports to Russian-owned ships later this week, a day after it banned Russian crude oil imports, reports Reuters.
The move follows a ban on Russian flights using UK and EU airspace.
Ships and banks
The ban on Russia-connected shipping is alongside evolving economic measures introduced by the government including against the Russian Central Bank and the state’s sovereign wealth fund, which mean the majority of Russia’s financial system is now covered by UK sanctions.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss said: “The ban on Russian ships from UK ports, and new economic sanctions against key Russian financial institutions including its central bank, in close coordination with our allies, will degrade Russia’s economy and help make sure Putin loses.”
Ports play a part
Tim Morris, chief executive of UK Major Ports Group, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that as UK ports are the gateway to 95% of the country’s imports and exports, it wasn’t unexpected that they had been asked to play a part in the broader sanctions effort.
“The government has enacted legislation very quickly for us to play that role. We are seeing some vessels with Russian interests divert on the way to the UK, some are at anchor off the UK and working out what they do next, and the vessels that were here already have been packed up and despatched as quicky as safety allows,” he said.
Though only 2-3% of total UK trade passing through shipping ports is Russian, it is concentrated in particular areas, such as oil and gas, and agricultural products, he added.
As covered in yesterday’s IOE&IT Daily Update, major shipping companies are starting to close and amend services to Russia and the Ukraine.
The government has also confirmed that all “extant and new” dual-use licences to Russia have been suspended.
Dual-use items are products have a valid commercial or civilian function, but which could also be used for strategic or military purposes and are therefore subject to controls.
Russian news agency Tass reports that MEPs called on the European Union to restrict oil and gas imports from Russia, as well as close all community ports to Russian ships.
“The European Parliament calls, in particular, for the import of the most important Russian export goods, including oil and gas, to be restricted,” a statement said.
MEPs also called “for EU ports to be closed to Russian ships” and “for access to all EU ports to be refused for ships whose last or next port of call is in the Russian Federation, except in the case of necessary justified humanitarian reasons”.
The vote on these issues will be non-binding on EU members.