Gorgeous, Brand-New $50 Million PHI Superyacht Is “Victim of a PR Stunt”

PHI was detained in London in late March to great fanfare, is still stuck there despite not being on any sanctions list 9 photos
Photo: Twitter / Grand Shapps
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Economic sanctions are not a clear-cut or, for that matter, very efficient method of discouraging Russia in its war against neighboring country Ukraine. Superyacht PHI is a good example of how sinuous the process of seizing a civilian’s property can be – or, depending on who you ask, how perverted.
PHI is a very new build, delivered by Royal Huisman to its mystery owner in 2021. With an estimated price tag of $50 million, it measures 58 meters (192 feet) in total length, which makes it small compared to other Russian-owned superyachts that have made headlines in recent months. That said, it boasts ample interior volume, a striking silhouette that resembles a sportscar, and outrageous amenities, and this puts it on par with bigger and more expensive vessels.

The peculiar thing about PHI is that it didn’t even get to sail too long before it was arrested: the superyacht was detained in London by the National Crime Agency and the British Ministry of Transport at the end of March, and it remains there to this day. This isn’t a “hooray” for the forces of good, though – at least, not according to Captain Guy Booth, who tells Sky News that PHI is “the victim of a PR stunt.”

The direct beneficiary of PHI is either Sergei Georgievich Naumenko or Vitaly Vasilievich Kochetkov, neither of whom are on any sanctions list. PHI itself is not among the vessels included on the same lists, though its arrest was made in the name of unspecified “ties” the supposed owner had with President Vladimir Putin.

The way Captain Booth sees it, the costly arrest (PHI is incurring expenses of more than $11,500 a month just by sitting docked at Canary Wharf) is a PR stunt by the British authorities: the owner has no ties with Putin or is involved in any capacity in the war, and all documentation proving this has already been presented. Still, the ship remains docked, barred from leaving, and shrouded in a veil of obstinate silence on the part of authorities.

“It's headline-grabbing, clickbait, attention-seeking,” Captain Booth says. “PHI is low-hanging fruit, she's the only Russian boat around here. It was easy pickings done for social media.” He’s referring to the tweet from Secretary of State for Transport of the United Kingdom Grand Shapps, posted minutes after NCA agents boarded the vessel in March and available below.

Contacted for comment by the same media outlet, the Department of Transport refuses to detail the considerations for the arrest or address the claim that documentation has been provided, proving its illegality. The official stance is that the war in Ukraine is wrong, that PHI “satisf[ies] both the scope and purpose of sanctions,” and that “the secretary of state will continue to act within his available powers to ratchet up the economic pressure on Russia and make life harder for Russian elites.” We have reached out to the DfT for more clarification on the PHI situation, and will update the article when and if we hear back.

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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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