Russian tycoon Alexey Mordashov’s $500 million superyacht is arriving in Cape Town after sailing more than 7,000 nautical miles from Hong Kong, seeking safe harbour from sanctions that have led to the seizure of more than a dozen vessels.
The 142-meter Nord posted its arrival date as Nov. 9 when it left Hong Kong last month, but it hadn’t transmitted its location as required by maritime law since Oct. 26, when it was off the coast of Sumatra. Given the risk of piracy, it isn’t necessarily unusual for vessels to turn off transponders in the Indian Ocean.
The Nord has challenged the effectiveness of Western attempts to clamp down on Russian billionaires.
Mordashov, the country’s third-wealthiest citizen and the biggest shareholder in steelmaker Severstal PJSC, was sanctioned by the European Union, the UK and US following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Hong Kong and South Africa both said they wouldn’t enforce those sanctions.
The South African Maritime Safety Authority is aware the Nord might be on its way to Cape Town, said spokesman Vusi September.
South Africa’s Transnet National Ports Authority typically requires 72-hour notice on the estimated time of arrival and hasn’t received that from the Nord, a spokeswoman said.
South Africa has said it had no reason to prevent the Nord’s entry, though Geordin Hill-Lewis, Cape Town’s mayor and a member of the main opposition Democratic Alliance, called for the vessel to be blocked.
The government, which in March abstained from a United Nations vote condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rejected the mayor’s plea.
“South Africa has no legal obligation to abide by sanctions imposed by the US and EU,” Vincent Magwenya, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesman, said last month.
A spokesperson for Mordashov declined to comment on the Nord’s movements. The representative has previously said the billionaire was in Moscow when the vessel arrived in Hong Kong and wasn’t on board when it left for South Africa.
The superyacht, featuring two helipads and 20 luxury cabins, departed the Seychelles several weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine.
It arrived in the Russian port of Vladivostok in late March and then made a surprise appearance in Hong Kong on Oct. 5, sparking a warning from the US that an offer of a safe haven risked the city’s reputation as an international financial center.
Mordashov’s other superyacht, the Lady M, was seized in Italy in March.
More than a dozen yachts worth more than $2.25 billion and connected to sanctioned Russians have been seized by the US and Europe. In May, Mordashov joined other businessmen in trying to challenge the moves in European courts.
While many Russian yachts have fled to friendly jurisdictions such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, South Africa hasn’t so far been a go-to refuge.