As part of the UK’s sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, Regulations 57 a-i of The Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/203) took effect on 1 March 2022. These ban the entry into UK ports of
(a)a ship owned, controlled, chartered or operated by a designated person,
(b)a ship owned, controlled, chartered or operated by persons connected with Russia,
(c)a ship registered in Russia,
(d)a ship flying the flag of Russia, or
(e)a specified ship.
A ship is ‘controlled’ by “a person who is able to take decisions about its operation, including (but not limited to) decisions about the route the ship may take and the appointment of master or crew.
The Secretary of State may direct the UK Ship Registrar to terminate the registration of such ships and to direct harbour authorities to detain Russian ships at ports or anchorages.
The Secretary of State may also specify a ship for the purposes of the entry prohibitions provided the Secretary of State—
(a) has reasonable grounds to suspect that the ship is, has been, or is likely to be, involved in a relevant activity, and
(b) considers that it is appropriate for that ship to be specified, having regard to the purposes stated in regulation 4.
A ship is “involved in a relevant activity” if the ship is used for any activity whose object or effect is to contravene or circumvent, or to enable or facilitate the contravention or circumvention of, any provision of these Regulations.
The prohibition on entry does not, as yet, apply to Russian cargo although there have been incidents where dockers in the UK have refused to unload such cargo.
Canada also closed its port to Russian ships on 1 March. The European Commission has also proposed banning Russian ships from docking at European ports but there is currently opposition to this.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that an estimated 60,000 Russian and Ukrainian sailors are stuck at ports, with Russia providing over 10% of the global workforce for shipping.
Russia’s prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, has said that nations that ban Russian ships from their ports could face retaliation.