Russia-owned oil tanker NS Champion prevented from docking on Orkney

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said on Monday that UK ports should refuse access to Russian boats.

Russian tanker prevented from docking on Orkney after UK Government intervenes STV News

The planned visit of a Russia-owned oil tanker scheduled to dock on Orkney has been cancelled.

Orkney Islands Council said NS Champion would no longer be allowed to land following discussions with the UK Government.

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said on Monday that UK ports should refuse access to Russian boats.

Shapps has now 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 that the UK Government will try to pass legislation prohibiting their arrival.

Shortly after the announcement, Orkney Islands Council confirmed the NS Champion – which is owned by Sovcomflot, a firm controlled by the Russian state – would not be allowed to dock at the Flotta oil terminal at Scapa Flow.

It comes as another Sovcomflot vessel, the NS Challenger, departed Shetland this week, while NS Champion’s sister ship, NS Century, is docked at Finnart on Loch Long, Argyll and Bute.

In his letter, 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 that the UK Government will “seek to support UK ports in identifying Russian ships” and alert them if prohibited vessels are inbound.

The NS Champion tanker was due to arrive at the Flotta oil terminal in Orkney on Tuesday amid a wave of sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

The vessel belongs to shipping company Sovcomflot, a firm that is majority owned by the Russian state, and Orkney Islands Council previously said it was powerless to prevent it from docking.

Orcadians, including those with connections to Ukraine, were “incensed” at the situation.

James Stockan, leader of Orkney Islands Council, 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 ships 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.”

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

She continued: “This is an issue that is reserved to the UK Government, this tanker is majority owned by a Russian government-controlled company.

“It would go against, if not the letter, then certainly the spirit of the sanctions and I think it would send the wrong message to people in Ukraine and across the world right now.

“It is a matter for the UK Government. I personally had discussions last night with Grant Shapps, the UK Secretary of State for Transport.

“To be fair to him, he agreed with me about how unacceptable it would be for that tanker to dock as planned, and we’re continuing discussions with him and his officials over the course of today.

“Hopefully we can find a way of stopping that happening.”

Following Shapps’ announcement, Sturgeon 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.”

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