While a record number of Russian yachts, many of them luxury models, appear to have been berthed in Estonia over summer, since there is no confirmation that the boats, some of which are worth millions of euros, have ever actually put into port in Estonia, this is more likely a tax avoidance scheme, daily Postimees reports.
Postimees was able to get hold of Russian customs declarations which show that a total of 43 "ghost yachts" – the vessels themselves are real enough - were in theory taken from the Russian Federation to Estonia over the three months of summer, the highest figure for the EU and surrounding region.
Jaanus Rahumägi a former Reform Party MP and security expert, whose company's remit includes dealing with global shipping security, speculates that this could be a customs duties avoidance scheme – ie. to avoid the mooring fees due from vessels sailing under foreign flags when in port in Russia for a period of over six months – adding that the arrival of such a number of luxury yachts in Estonian harbors would not go unnoticed.
Karin Ulvik, a specialist at the department of communication and external relations of the Tax and Customs Board (MTA), told Postimees that: "Estonia's import statistics do not confirm that such a volume of watercraft has been declared for import in Estonia in the period 2021-2023," while the Estonian Navy confirms that the vessels mentioned have not been observed putting into port here either.
The most expensive yacht listed is the Sunseeker Predator, worth €5.46 million, while several other yachts in with price tags in the millions were also referenced (Sunseeker Predator is a yacht model range, rather than a specific vessel – ed.).
Yachts with values into the hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars and belonging to Russia's elites were seized by authorities in the aftermath of the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Editor: Andrew Whyte