One Russian oligarch’s $600 million superyacht is stuck in Germany after he stopped paying the crew

March 9, 2022, 9:38 AM UTC

Alisher Usmanov’s superyacht will languish in a dock in Hamburg after its crew and captain were made redundant after European Union and U.S. sanctions made it impossible to pay their wages.

The last of the usually 80-strong staff on the Dilbar, who crewed for the sanctioned billionaire, left the 156-meter yacht Monday, according to people familiar with the matter. A slimmed-down crew, employed by Luerssen, which built the ship in 2016, will remain on the boat, they said. 

The yacht, named after Usmanov’s mother and the world’s largest by volume, had been undergoing refitting in the northern German city. Boasting a 25-meter swimming pool and two helipads, it’s valued at between $600 million and $750 million, according to the U.S. Treasury.

“We have tried all avenues to find a solution to keep the team in place, and protect our positions, but have reached the end of the road of possibilities,” Dilbar captain Tim Armstrong wrote in a message to the crew and seen by Bloomberg.

The Ministry for Economy and Innovation in Hamburg said on Thursday that the federal customs agency must issue an export waiver for the boat to depart and that “no yacht leaves port that is not allowed to do so.”

The move underscores the wider impact of the penalties levied by Europe and the U.S. on ultra-rich Russians seen as having close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Superyachts and other opulent displays of wealth among Russia’s elite have drawn especially intense scrutiny since the country’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Usmanov, 68, owns a major stake in USM, a Russian investment group with holdings in Metalloinvest, one of the world’s largest iron ore producers, and telecommunications company MegaFon. He’s the sixth-richest Russian with a fortune of $17.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The U.S. Treasury said it specifically designated Dilbar, as well as Usmanov’s private jet, as “blocked property.” The hiring of crew as well as the payment of docking fees in U.S. dollars is prohibited, it said.

The European Union then adopted sanctions on six of Russia’s wealthiest individuals last week, including Usmanov, who called the decision “unfair” and “defamatory.”

Tim Joyce, the chief executive officer of U.K.-based Sarnia Yachts, which provided crew services to the Dilbar, declined to comment. Staff at Metalloinvest and Luerssen didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. 

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