Ethical dilemma of Dutch shipbuilders: the ‘day’ of the rich Russians is also a ‘day’ of their billionaires

Ethical dilemma of Dutch shipbuilders: the 'day' of the rich Russians is also a 'day' of their billionaires

Damen shipyards in Vlissingen.Statue of Peter Hilz / ANP

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Damen Shipbuilding Group spoke of a “split” and an “ethical dilemma”. Was it still possible to build ships for the Russians? On Saturday, the Dutch family business with customers in Ukraine and Russia decided to stop trading with Russian customers. Because of the war in Ukraine, Damen will not sign new contracts for the delivery of ships to Russian owners.

Damen does not want to mention any amounts, but supplies to Russia will be in the hundreds of millions of euros. Journalism research platform Follow the Money found that Damen also sold giant yachts such as Here Comes the Sun to Russian billionaire Alexander Dzhaparides, named after the famous George Harrison song. Dzahaparidze had two more ships built to denote the songs of the Beatles, Heesen Yachts supplied the ship Let it Be

financial hit

Damen will build two additional yachts in Vlissingen for Russian customers. Thus, the severing of relations with Russia directly affects Damen’s business operations. “It’s a financial hit, a huge blow if it doesn’t start again,” spokesman Robin Meddell said. We also build ships that are especially suitable for harsh weather conditions in Russia, such as drifting ice. You don’t just sell it to other customers.

“Moral sense” eventually wins out over Damen’s money. Middel: ‘It wasn’t a soft decision, it just cuts through the company’s capillaries. But we have people in a dangerous situation in Ukraine and at the same time they are extraditing them to Russia. This is incompatible, and sanctions have left us no other choice. We’ll be collecting the pieces in the coming weeks.

close link

Does this also apply to other shipbuilders who have established a close relationship with their Russian customers? In the Netherlands there are about a hundred shipyards, of which 22 super yachts were built. In this sector, the Netherlands ranks third in the world with an annual turnover of 1.8 billion euros in 2020. That year, orders were accepted for 2.15 billion euros. According to figures from the Netherlands Maritime Technology, the order book has grown to 5.38 billion euros as of the end of 2020, and thirteen yachts worth 500 million euros are under construction.

Feadship – with a turnover of €700 million – builds four to six superyachts annually with its affiliate partners Koninklijke De Vries and Koninklijke Van Lent at shipyards in Aalsmeer, Kaag, Makkum and Amsterdam. Anna, the ship of Dmitriy Rybolovlev, owner of French football club Monaco and certainly not a friend of Russian President Putin, is one of Feedship’s masterpieces.

The market leader in the Netherlands does not go further than Damen to penetrate Russian customers. Farouk Al-Nafzy, Marketing Director, confined himself to stating that Feadship follows international laws and regulations. This also applies to customer acceptance. We are ownership, morals and ethics are of paramount importance.

Damen shipyard in Gorinchem.  ANP . image

Damen shipyard in Gorinchem.ANP . image

floating castle

More than ever, the ethical aspect weighs heavily on shipbuilders. calculates that 9 percent of all luxury yachts are owned by Russian oligarchs. Many of them were built in Holland. At the Icon Yachts depot in Harlingen, Galactica Cosmos, the glamorous €100 million luxury yacht, awaits completion.

It took the shipbuilder Heesen Yachts a few days to move the floating castle from Oss to Harlingen, because the high waters prevented it from passing under two bridges over the Maas River. There is little chance that the buyer will be able to get to the ship quickly. Galactica Cosmos will be owned by Vagit Alekperov, with his investment fund Morcell Ltd a major shareholder in Heesen and chairman of the board of Russian oil group Lukoil.

according to quote Alekperov and his Russian business partner Leonid Fedun acquired Heesen Yachts from Frans Heesen in 2014. The Azerbaijani-born Russian has already done business with Heesen: in 2012 he bought Galactica Plus for an undisclosed amount and in 2016 Galactica Super Nova for 75 million euro.

Russian language of instruction

Heesen Yachts flaunts their luxury yachts, and Russian is one of the official languages ​​on the site. Galactica Cosmos, with a length of 80.07 meters and a top speed of 29 knots, is the largest and fastest aluminum yacht. The ship has an integrated helipad that can be converted into a movie theatre. In addition to the beach club, Alekperov’s guests can enjoy a pool with a waterfall and a glass bottom.

Heesen denies that the Galactica Cosmos was taken. “Our principal shareholder is also not on the list of sanctioned persons,” said Sarah Gwanola, a spokeswoman for Heesen. It confirms that Heesen Yachts is a Dutch company in compliance with Dutch law.

Unlike Damen Shipyards, Gioanola expects no financial consequences for Heesen. Our order book is big enough. The war is tragic for everyone, but sanctions will certainly cost us Russian agents. ” The question of whether Heesen Yachts is looking for an owner other than Alekperov or whether to terminate contracts with Russian customers, at the moment, remains unanswered.

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