Russian-owned ship will not dock in Orkney – council chief

The vessel had been due to dock on Tuesday.

The vessel will not dock in Orkney (David Cheskin/PA)
The vessel will not dock in Orkney (David Cheskin/PA)

A Russian-owned ship will no longer dock in Orkney as planned, the local authority has confirmed.

The announcement from Orkney Islands Council came after UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said UK ports should refuse access to Russian boats.

With the Russian-owned ship due to dock in Orkney on Tuesday, the UK Government had been urged to ban the country’s vessels in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Orkney Islands Council said that significant work went into finding a solution, alongside the UK Government, and that the planned visit by the vessel NS Champion has been cancelled.

This was a very complex, fast-moving situation - and we have ultimately achieved the best possible outcome

James Stockan, Orkney Islands Council

Council leader James Stockan said: “Over the weekend, officers worked tirelessly to try and find a solution to the issue of the visiting tanker – in order to support the strength of feeling that is running not only in our community, but throughout our organisation too.

“We welcomed the announcement this afternoon from the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Transport – this was very much one of the avenues we have been exploring over the last few days.

“That announcement was followed by news from the ship’s agent that they were cancelling the visit.

“This was a very complex, fast-moving situation – and we have ultimately achieved the best possible outcome.

“Our thanks go out to all that have contributed to this outcome but most of all sincere thanks to our incredible community as their role in this cannot be underestimated.”

Mr Shapps has written to all UK ports telling them not to provide access to any ship believed to be registered in Russia, flying the Russian flag or owned, controlled, chartered or operated by “any person connected with Russia”.

He added the UK Government will try to pass legislation prohibiting their arrival.

In his letter, Mr Shapps wrote: “Russia’s assault on Ukraine is an unprovoked, premeditated attack against a sovereign democratic state.

“The UK Government has been clear there would be massive consequences and a severe cost for any Russian military incursion into Ukraine and, in coordination with our international allies and partners, we are developing an unprecedented package of further sanctions.

“The maritime sector is fundamental to international trade and we must play our part in restricting Russia’s economic interests and holding the Russian government to account.

“In these circumstances, the Department for Transport does not consider it appropriate for Russian vessels to enter UK ports.”

He added the UK Government will “seek to support UK ports in identifying Russian ships” and alert them if prohibited vessels are inbound.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon previously said she does not want a Russian-owned oil tanker to dock in Orkney, and was working with the UK Government to “find a way of stopping that happening”.

The NS Champion tanker had been due to arrive at the Flotta oil terminal in Orkney on Tuesday amid the sanctions and conflict following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It belongs to shipping company Sovcomflot, a firm majority owned by the Russian state, and Orkney Islands Council had previously said it was powerless to prevent it docking.

Downing Street said it expected ports to comply with Mr Shapps’ request and sanctions targeting Moscow’s shipping sector were in the works.

“We would expect UK ports to co-operate with that, and there is certainly no sign that they wouldn’t do so,” said the Prime Minister’s official spokesman.

“Detailed sanctions against Russian shipping are being developed and so they will be setting out further details shortly.”

Ms Sturgeon told the media during a visit to Aberdeen earlier on Monday: “Let me be blunt, I don’t want that tanker to dock in Orkney tomorrow.”

Following the announcement by Mr Shapps, she tweeted: “This is good. I had a constructive conversation with Grant Shapps y’day evening in light of the planned docking of a Russian vessel in Orkney, and I welcome this step while legislation for longer term takes effect.”

Liberal Democrat Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said: “This is a victory for the people of Orkney who were prepared to step in and block the docking of a Russian oil tanker here if necessary.”

The UK Chamber of Shipping said there were 19 Russian flagged vessels in UK ports, UK waters or immediately on the Continent, and a spokesperson said: “The banning of ships with Russian interests from UK ports will put further pressure on the Russian president’s military objectives.”

But they warned it would be complex and require new legislation, and pledged to work closely with the UK Government to ensure its measures had the best effect.

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