Billionaire yacht builder investigates identity of boat owners as Russian sanctions tighten

The German luxury yacht builder of the oligarchs makes sure it knows who its customers are.

Uerssen, who has built two of the three biggest superyachts held by authorities for links to sanctioned Russian billionaires, sent out questionnaires this week saying he needed updated information on the ultimate ownership of yachts moored or under construction on its sites, according to a letter seen by Bloomberg.

The Bremen-based yacht builder, whose origins date back almost 150 years and claims to have built the world’s first motorboat, said it needed to be able to respond to requests from authorities following the “geopolitical situation in Ukraine”.

One of his largest yachts, Dilbar, a 156-meter (512-foot) motor yacht owned by Alisher Usmanov, is currently in a Hamburg yard.

“The dispute has also had the effect of increasing scrutiny of the ownership of large yachts,” Luerssen wrote in the letter sent to his clients.

A spokesperson for Luerssen declined to comment, but said the company complies with all laws and regulations.

The yachting industry is in turmoil after officials in the US, UK and EU began targeting lavish floating palaces to freeze assets belonging to ultra-wealthy Russians believed to have close ties with the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin.

The Dutch government said this week that a dozen yachts currently under construction in shipyards across the country will be detained until authorities are sure they will not be handed over to sanctioned owners.

So far, the yachts with a total value of nearly $2.3 billion (2.1 billion euros) have so far been seized, according to calculations by Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, some billionaires sailed their ships to Vladivostok or beyond the reach of Western authorities.

Monaco-based yacht company Imperial Yachts has taken down its Russian-language website and reduced its management activities, while Burgess Yachts has removed photos of yachts with links to Russian owners from its site.

Imperial has managed at least two of the yachts seized in the Mediterranean, including the Luerssen-built Crescent, a 135-metre (443ft) super yacht with two helicopter landing pads and a swimming pool, now held in the eastern region of Catalonia .

Amore Vero, a vessel owned by Igor Sechin – the CEO of oil giant Rosneft PJSC and a close ally of Putin – was prevented from leaving the Cote d’Azur by French customs officials earlier in March.

“Activities that we might normally undertake, such as planning trips that owners and other users of the yachts would like to do, are of course suspended for these yachts,” an Imperial representative said.

A Burgess spokesperson said the company was required to stop doing business with anyone sanctioned. “Such action includes the removal of any such yacht from our marketing channels,” she said.