UK port workers refuse to handle Russian cargo

3 March 2022

At least two ships containing Russian oil and gas are due to dock in the UK, despite new legislation banning Russian ships into UK ports. 

Port workers say they “don’t want to touch” the cargo from two ships carrying Russian gas and oil in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Boris Vilkitsky and Fedor Litke vessels are bound for Grain LNG in Kent – the largest terminal in Europe for importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) – with plans to unload on Sunday. The ships are said to contain enough gas to supply the UK for up to 12 days. 

Unison, which represents around 200 workers at the National Grid-owned Isle of Grain terminal, said the government must “immediately intervene” to prevent the ships from docking in Kent.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said new legislation passed by the government meant the UK had become “the first nation to pass a law involving a total ban of all ships with any Russian connection whatsoever from entering British ports”. 

However, a loophole in the legislation means it does not cover the origin of cargo, meaning the ships – which both sail under the flag of Cyprus – are not covered by the ban, despite carrying Russian supplies.  

Matt Lay, head of energy at Unison, said: “Grant Shapps must send these two ships packing. He needs to make it clear that all Russian ships are banned from every UK port and terminal.

“The workers at the National Grid terminal don’t want to touch the cargo given the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine.

“These staff are determined to show their support for the Ukrainian people and uphold the sanctions imposed against Russia.”

A third ship, Pluto, which is carrying oil from Russia, was moored at Milford Haven in South Wales as the legislation was being passed through Parliament. It was scheduled to dock next in Derry in Northern Ireland.

Colum Eastwood, MP for Foyle, told Derry Now: “This vessel, which contains Russian goods cargo, is not welcome and should not be allowed to make land in Derry.

“It runs contrary to the spirit of the sanctions which have been introduced to bring pressure to bear on Putin’s regime to end the outrageous invasion of Ukraine.

“The people of Derry stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine who are enduring unimaginable suffering at the hands of Putin’s forces. I have been in touch with the port to offer assistance through my office to ensure that the spirit of the sanctions are upheld and that the vessel is prevented from docking in Derry.”

The legislation was introduced after Scottish politicians raised concerns about a Russian oil tanker ship that was due to arrive in Orkney.

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