The fate of a huge oil tanker in a Belfast shipyard is uncertain after the Government said UK ports should refuse access to Russian boats.
The Eduard Toll docked at Harland & Wolff’s shipyard earlier this month — where it is currently being worked on — before the invasion of Ukraine.
The mammoth liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker is the largest to enter the shipyard in recent years, and dwarfs Harland & Wolff’s most famous vessel, the ill-fated Titanic.
It is designed to operate year-round from Russia’s Yamal peninsula and to break ice up to 2.5m thick.
Harland & Wolff on Monday night said it will “continue to support the UK Government’s position”, following Transport Secretary Grant Schapps’ call for all UK ports to deny access to Russian flagged, registered or operated vessels.
Mr Shapps tweeted on Monday: “Given Putin’s action in Ukraine I’ve made clear these vessels are NOT welcome here with prohibiting legislation to follow.”
In a letter to UK ports, he said the maritime sector “must play our part” in sanctioning Russia over Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Russia’s assault on Ukraine is an unprovoked, premeditated attack against a sovereign democratic state. The UK Government has been clear there would be massive consequences and a severe cost for any Russian military incursion into Ukraine, and, in co-ordination with our international allies and partners, we are developing an unprecedented package of further sanctions,” he said.
“The maritime sector is fundamental to international trade and we must play our part in restricting Russia’s economic interests and holding the Russian government to account.
“In these circumstances the Department for Transport does not consider it appropriate for Russian vessels to continue to enter UK ports.
“From this point onwards, UK ports are asked not to provide access to any ship which they have reason to believe is: owned, controlled, chartered, or operated by any person connected with Russia owned, controlled, chartered or operated by designated persons flying the Russian flag registered in Russia.
“We will seek to support UK ports in identifying Russian ships within scope of the above and will communicate directly with relevant ports when we identify ships bound for UK ports who fall within scope of the above.
“Further detailed sanctions against Russian shipping are being developed and further details will be shared very shortly.”
Harland & Wolff said in a statement to the Belfast Telegraph: “We are aware of a request issued by the Department for Transport instructing UK ports not to provide access to any ship which is owned or controlled by any person connected with Russia, flying the Russian flag or registered in Russia.
“Harland & Wolff has a long tradition of working with UK Government and will continue to support the UK Government’s position.”
It is unclear whether the UK Government’s request only concerns incoming Russian vessels, or also those already docked or undergoing repairs.
It is also unclear whether or not the Eduard Toll — which measures up at a significant draught of 7.1m and a length of 299m — we be allowed to leave the Belfast dock amid the current climate.
Harland & Wolff’s Belfast shipyard is the site of one of Europe’s largest heavy engineering facilities with deep-water access, and also two of Europe’s largest dry docks. The famous shipyard was saved from closure back in 2019 after being acquired by UK-based energy company Infrastrata.
Following the acquisition of Harland & Wolff (Appledore) in August 2020, the firm has focused on opportunities in both ship repair and shipbuilding.