The Agony of the Superyacht Crew Member
Illustration by Ryan Ho

The Agony of the Superyacht Crew Member

Alex Finley

“Should we be resigning from all Russian yachts?”

This question was posed by an anonymous participant in an Instagram Q&A hosted in March by Nautilus International, a union for mariners, as the United Kingdom, European Union, and United States began sanctioning Russian oligarchs and setting out to freeze their assets, including their mega yachts.

The growth of the superyacht industry coincided with the rise of Russian oligarchs in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 1992 and 2005, more than 20 mega yachts were built, more than the entire number built in the previous 127 years. The mega yacht industry continued expanding in the years that followed. Since 2008, more than 50 yachts over 80 meters in length have been delivered. In 2021 alone, 19 yachts in that size category were delivered.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western governments issued sanctions aimed at freezing Russian assets abroad, including yachts of various sizes. According to SuperyachtNews, Russians own more than 29 percent of all mega yachts over 90 meters long. Among them are Eclipse and Solaris, owned by Roman Abramovich; Dilbar, owned by Alisher Usmanov; and Crescent, owned by Igor Sechin. Will stripping the oligarchs of their right to sail their mega yachts around Sardinia compel them to pressure Vladimir Putin to change his behavior? It's still anyone's guess.

Meanwhile, little attention has been paid to another group of people affected by the detainment of these mega yachts: Their crew members, professional mariners who found themselves caught up in international intrigue. Who will take care of them? And how?

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