Proposed Legislation Aims to Block Russian Vessels from U.S. Ports
As sanctions continue to ratchet up in reaction to Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, global responses in the maritime sector are moving at breakneck speed. Indeed, several governments are taking steps to block vessels owned or controlled by Russian interests from entering their ports. British and Canadian governments are reportedly enacting or have enacted legislation prohibiting Russian vessels from entry to ports and internal waters. Britain has ordered its ports to block any vessels that are Russian-flagged or believed to be registered, owned or controlled by any person connected with Russia. Further sanctions against Russian shipping are expected, and as the extent of the Russian-connected fleet could extend well beyond 6,000 vessels, sanctions are creating a daunting task for regulators and a higher risk operational environment for the rest of the industry, in particular the diligence required to assess whether a vessel is flagged, owned, beneficially owned or operated (or controlled) by entities based in Russia.
In parallel with similar international efforts, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has announced that he is drafting legislation to authorize the seizure of Russian yachts and commercial vessels currently within the waters of the United States in a forthcoming bill H.R. 6890, the Bringing Oligarch Accountability Through Seizure (BOATS) Act. The BOATS Act aims to prohibit Russian vessels from operating in the navigable waters of the United States and also to authorize seizure of Russian-owned (or controlled) vessels flying flags of convenience. The text of the bill is not yet available but was introduced into Congress on March 1, 2022. It will typically be considered by a House committee next before it may be sent to the House or Senate as a whole.
The proposed BOATS Act comes during an important week of maritime legislation as the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure advanced H.R. 6865, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022. That bill authorizes a level of support that enhances U.S. Coast Guard operations, which reportedly includes cyber infrastructure. Given the fast pace of emerging Russian-related measures, the progress of both bills is worth tracking for any amendments and final text if passed.
Holland & Knight's Maritime Team will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as necessary. For more information or questions, contact the authors.
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