29 MAR 2022
A French court has ordered the release of the Russian bulk carrier Pola Ariake from the port of Lorient, where she has been held since early March.
The Pola Ariake arrived at Lorient on February 27, three days after the start of the invasion of Ukraine. She is owned by a holding company, GTLK Asia M7, which is a division of Russian transport leasing firm GTLK Global.
French customs officials detained the Ariake shortly after her arrival. At the time the bulker was seized, GTLK’s chairman was Russian Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev, who is subject to EU sanctions. The asset seizure was intended to enforce sanctions on Savelyev – but he resigned from his board position on March 5.
According to local media, the court ruled that French customs could not adequately show a link between the vessel and the sanctioned individual, since he has resigned from the management of GTLK. It ordered the vessel released and instructed French customs to pay $110,000 to the shipowner for damages caused by the delay in port. Customs officials plan to appeal the judgement.
The Pola Ariake departed port on March 28 and headed north through the Irish Sea, bound for Norway.
Two other Russian vessels were detained in France at about the same time and remain there today. In the port of Fos-sur-Mer near Marseille, the Russian general cargo ship Victor Andryukhin remains under sanctions-related detention. The 2021-built vessel and her 12 Russian crewmembers were held in late February, and AIS data shows that the vessel is still moored.
On February 25, the cargo ship Baltic Leader was intercepted by French Navy forces after it departed Rouen, and she was ordered to divert to the French port of Boulogne-Sur-Mer. She remains moored at the port as of Tuesday. The U.S. Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on the Baltic Leader, alleging that it is owned by sanctioned Russian bank Promsvyazbank. The bank denies any ownership stake in the vessel.