Boris Johnson’s government is now “investigating” yachts linked to Russian oligarchs currently moored in the UK, the transport secretary has said.
Grant Shapps told MPs they were now blocked from leaving, and revealed that 10 Moscow-linked ships had been turned away as part of a ban on Russian vessels in British waters.
The cabinet minister said investigations into a “small number” of luxury yachts was part of ongoing action to “clamp down on Russian interests in the UK”.
He told the Commons: “We have detained private jets that we believe are owned by or connected to Putin’s cronies.”
Mr Shapps added: “I can confirm that we’re investigating a small number of yachts moored in this country we suspect are also linked to Russian oligarchs. I have taken steps to ensure that are unable to depart and investigations are ongoing.”
The transport secretary added: “I can reveal ten Russian-linked ships have been turned away or redirected on their course, and eight ships or their companies had severed their Russian ties.”
Mr Shapps also congratulated members of the Unite union for refusing to unload Russian oil at Stanlow in Cheshire. “It came after I wrote to all the ports and asked them not to allow in Russian ships and Russian-connected ships.”
The transport secretary added: “This country is the only country in the world to have a Russian-connected ban on our ports and we look forward to other countries joining our lead.”
The government had faced criticism for being too slow to impose individual sanctions on Russian oligarchs linked to Vladimir Putin’s regime – and freeze assets such as yachts and private jets – since the invasion of Ukraine.
Last week Mr Shapps used new aviation sanctions to impound a private jet in Hampshire, as government officials try to establish the plane’s links to a Russian oligarch.
The minister said: “There is one such aircraft on the ground at the moment at Farnborough that I’ve essentially impounded whilst we carry out further investigations.”
Meanwhile, Mr Shapps said his officials will be having “urgent discussions” with P&O Ferries, as he expressed concern at the immediate suspension of sailings.
P&O Ferries sent its ferries back to port and said it had paused its services in preparation for “a company announcement” later on Thursday.
Labour’s shadow transport minister Mike Kane asked Mr Shapps about potential jobs losses amid reports that staff could be replaced with foreign labour. “We don’t want those crews replaced by foreign cheap labour,” he said.
“I am concerned with this news which is breaking on P&O Ferries,” Mr Shapps told the Commons. “I understand they have temporarily paused their operations and that’s causing disruption at the short straits – Calais-Dover – as well as some other ports.”
The minister added: “We’ll be taking steps later today – including ensuring that my officials will be having urgent discussions with P&O about the situation, particularly of concern for their workers.”
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he would allow an “emergency statement” from the government on the matter later on Thursday if needed.