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Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States and other countries around the world seized superyachts owned by Russian oligarchs. With the ties of the oligarchs to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, the seizures of these massive luxury boats are part of economic sanctions to limit Russia’s ability to wage war against Ukraine. However, the confiscation of the superyachts now has an unfortunate consequence. They cost taxpayers millions of dollars to dock and maintain.

The US seized 7 superyachts from Russian oligarchs 

Amadea, a seized Russian superyacht costing taxpayers millions of dollars, arrives in Hawaii
Amadea superyacht | Eugene Tanner/AFP via Getty Images

Following the unprovoked invasion, the U.S. and other nations sympathetic to Ukraine sanctioned Russia in the effort to impede its war machine. This included limiting or blocking transactions with Russian banks, other financial institutions, and Russian state-owned enterprises. Also, in the private sector, many major corporations pulled out of Russia.

Additionally, the sanctions target Russian elites. This includes not only government and military officials and their families but also wealthy oligarchs connected to Putin and the government. And one of the easiest targets of all these entities is the oligarchs and their huge superyachts.

These luxury yachts, which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, were seized at ports around the world — and impounded. The U.S. seized seven of them. 

Initially, many people viewed these seizures as a big victory. It was an effective and highly visible way to affect the Russian power structure — and ultimately help Ukraine. However, in the months since the seizures, the superyachts have turned into a money drain — at a cost to taxpayers.

Seized Russian superyachts in US and Italian custody cost $50 million per year to dock and maintain

These superyachts are very expensive to dock and maintain. For the seized yachts in U.S. and Italian custody, the estimate is $50 million per year. The Amadea, a seized superyacht worth $325 million, was seized in Fiji and is now moored in San Diego. Since its impounding, it has accumulated $120,000 in docking fees. On top of that, there’s the cost of maintaining it with a skeleton crew for its insurance coverage and additional fees. Its estimated cost of maintenance is $10 million per year. 

While officials in Spain and France claim that taxpayers aren’t footing the bill, it’s a different story for the U.S. As detailed by Bloomberg and Jalopnik, American officials “essentially admitted” that taxpayers in the U.S. are paying for the docking and maintenance of impounded Russian superyachts.

In an interview with Bloomberg, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan described the absurdity of the situation: “You know what the craziest thing is? When we seize one, we have to pay for upkeep. Some people are basically being paid to maintain Russian superyachts on behalf of the United States government.”

It’s difficult to sell the seized luxury yachts

Sailing Yacht A, seized Russian superyacht costing taxpayers millions of dollars, moving near a coast
Sailing Yacht A superyacht | Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images

Selling the seized Russian superyachts would be an obvious solution to the problem. Plus, the money gained from their sale could provide aid to support Ukraine. However, it’s difficult to sell the luxury yachts — and if one sells, it’s at a reduced price. This is because very few people are willing to buy a yacht that was seized. At a recent auction in Europe, funds from the sale of an impounded superyacht only covered the debt owned by the owner. 

Officials aren’t yet sure what to do with the superyachts. However, U.S. lawmakers are putting together plans to determine how to sell them. But until then — the luxurious superyachts sit, costing taxpayers a great deal of money with each passing day.


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