Gibraltar seizes Russian's superyacht over German debt claim

Image copyright EPA Image caption The seized Sailing Yacht A is among the creme de la creme of private yachts - seen here off Denmark

Gibraltar has impounded a Russian billionaire's superyacht - one of the world's biggest - because the German shipbuilder says he still owes 15.3m euros (£13.3m; $16.3m) in fees.

The claim has kept Andrei Melnichenko's Sailing Yacht A stuck in Gibraltar, a British territory, since Wednesday.

The Bermuda-registered vessel, built by Nobiskrug, left the Kiel shipyard in northern Germany two weeks ago.

It is 143m (469ft) long and has three masts, the main one 100m high.

The superyacht, boasting a gross tonnage of 12,600, is reported to have cost at least €400m. Nobiskrug says it has an underwater observation pod, hybrid diesel-electric propulsion and "state-of-the-art" navigation systems. It was designed by Philippe Starck.

According to documents seen by Germany's NDR news, Nobiskrug is demanding an outstanding payment of €9.8m, as well as €5.5m for subcontractors and interest charges. Valla Yachts Ltd, a Bermuda company, is the yacht's registered owner.

The Gibraltar Port Authority says "most arrested ships are sold in a sealed-bids auction within six to eight weeks, once the claim has been proved and judgment given".

In a statement on its website, it says "we put 'ship keepers' on board - two security guards to protect the vessel and its contents.

"We provide the crew with everything, from bunkers so they can keep the generators going, to provisions of food and water." A launch is also arranged "so that the crew, who would otherwise be stuck onboard, can have some shore leave".

Mr Melnichenko, an industrialist with big stakes in the fertiliser, coal and energy sectors, has a $13.2bn fortune, business website Forbes reports.


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