Come July, a British judge will decide whether the government acted properly in holding the superyacht Phi for more than a year. The hearing follows a lawsuit from the owner of Phi seeking a ruling to set aside the decision to detain her, plus damages.
In March 2022, the UK government detained the yacht in relation to the Russian sanctions. National law-enforcement agents boarded the 192-footer (58.5-meter) while she was visiting London. The agency cited her owner’s Russian heritage, without disclosing his identity. It was the first detention of a superyacht in UK waters stemming from the sanctions. A spokesperson for the prime minister’s office confirmed that the owner wasn’t on the sanctions list, though. Regardless, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, exercised power under the grounds that a person connected with Russia owned, controlled, or operated the yacht. Shapps publicly asserted that detaining Phi is “a clear and stark warning to Putin and his cronies.” He added that “we can and will take the strongest possible action against those seeking to benefit from Russian connections.” Phi’s captain, Guy Booth, has repeatedly told media the owner has no ties to Putin.
Phi has remained docked in London ever since, without permission to depart. The government has not filed sanctions against the owner since that time, either.
According to a High Court filing this week, Sergei Georgievich Naumenko is the owner of the superyacht Phi. He’s a claimant, along with the companies through which he owns the yacht, in a lawsuit from March 2023. The suit seeks dismissal of the decision to detain. Furthermore, the lawsuit seeks payment of damages. An initial hearing on the case took place on May 10. It makes note of two prior decisions upholding the ongoing detainment, one in April 2022 and another this past January.
The judge overseeing this week’s hearing did not issue a ruling. Instead, he set a July date for a more detailed hearing. During it, the court will consider whether the detainment and subsequent upholdings were lawful. Additionally, the court will consider whether the owner is entitled to damages.
Royal Huisman delivered Phi in 2021, with head-turning styling from Cor D. Rover Design as well as surprising speeds for her size. She hit upwards of 20 knots during sea trials late last year in part due to a hull design by Van Oossanen Naval Architects.