The captain of a 192-foot superyacht, Phi, owned by a businessman from Russia has said the detention was a government overreach and nothing beyond a mere publicity stunt. On Tuesday, Phi had been detained in Canary Wharf by the UK. The owner of the $50 million vessel is Vitaly Vasilievich Kochetkov, also the founder of Motiv Telecom.
Grant Shapps, the UK’s transport secretary, mentioned that by seizing Phi, authorities had turned an icon of Russian wealth and power into a stark warning to Putin and cronies.
The West was in the process of sanctioning Russian oligarchs and elites and also seizing their assets to pressurize the country to stop the war in Ukraine. But Shapps did not specify whether a sanctioned oligarch owned the yacht, and the National Crime Agency (NCA) informed Insider that it was not sharing detail concerning the owner.
Kochetkov is the alleged owner of the yacht. However, the UK has not sanctioned him yet. But on 1 March, the UK banned Russian-owned or Russian-operated vessels from the country’s ports and gave authorities the right to detain Russia’s vessels. In mid-March, the UK had been investigating a limited number of yachts moored in the country with links to Russia’s oligarchs.
The vessel has not been seized but detained, an NCA spokesperson mentioned to Insider. It continues to be the property and the owner’s responsibility but is prevented from departing.
Regarding the detention of Phi, Guy Booth, its captain mentioned on LinkedIn that the incident was a government overreach and a mere publicity stunt. He added that punishing all Russians for one person’s actions per international law “is illegal,” citing clauses from the Geneva and Hague Conventions.
Phi was moored in Canary Wharf from December after it completed the maiden voyage and was back from the Netherlands.
The NCA mentioned in its statement that the yacht’s ownership was well hidden. It added that the vessel was registered to a firm that was located in St Kitts and Nevis. It had been flying Maltese flags to keep its origins hidden.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Canal and River Trust staff had come to erect a metal fence around the dock.
The insider had been able to spot some staff that was cleaning the vessel. Since the detention had been declared, Insider also saw some staff wearing Phi-branded clothes but they have stayed mostly hidden from public view.
The insider had also seen a Phi-branded small inflatable docked beside the vessel before it was detained. It remained there until late Wednesday morning when it had been removed.
The Insider observed that many people who were passing by were clicking pictures of the vessel from when the detention was announced.