Carmichael and McArthur welcome decision on NS Champion and prospect of wider ban on Russian vessels

Alistair Carmichael MP and Liam McArthur MSP have welcomed confirmation that the NS Champion will not now be arriving in Flotta this week. The decision was taken as the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, announced that UK ports will not provide access to any Russian vessels with immediate effect.

While the detail around the legal status of the ban has still to be clarified, it is a move that has been welcomed within the Orkney community, which has made clear over recent days its fierce determination to prevent Orkney hosting the Sovcomflot vessel. Both Mr Carmichael and Mr McArthur paid tribute to the local community for the role it has played, not just in relation to NS Champion but the wider ban now being put in place throughout the UK.

Mr Carmichael has led efforts to force the UK Government to make use of the sanctions regime to deny NS Champion access to Orkney waters and wrote to the Prime Minister on Saturday calling for an immediate ban on Russian vessels accessing UK ports. 

In a letter to all UK ports this afternoon, Mr Shapps confirmed they should not provide access to any ship which they believe is:

  • Owned, controlled, chartered, or operated by any person connected with Russia
  • Owned, controlled, chartered, or operated by Designated Persons
  • Flying the Russian flag
  • Registered in Russia

Commenting on developments today, Mr Carmichael said:

"The news that the government will ban Russian owned and operated vessels from using UK ports is perhaps somewhat overdue but enormously welcome. It will be a relief for my constituents who were ready to protest and to take to their boats to prevent such arrivals – and a relief for all right-minded people who oppose Vladimir Putin’s bloodthirsty regime.

"Having pressed the case with ministers – perhaps to the point of annoyance – through the weekend I am glad that they have taken the action that I and so many others have been calling for in blocking Sovcomflot and all similarly-owned vessels.

"The proof of course shall be in the detail and we shall be looking carefully to ensure that this hits vessels like the NS Champion which was due to arrive in Orkney imminently. There is much more that can and must be done to oppose Putin’s aggression but this is a significant and positive step."

Mr McArthur said:

"It has taken time, but this is absolutely the right decision. The community in Orkney deserve enormous credit for the way in which they have come together over recent days and made sure the views of not just this community, but the country as a whole, have been heard loud and clear.

"Given the appalling events in Ukraine, people in Orkney were rightly appalled at the prospect of a Russian government-owned vessel sailing into Scapa Flow as if nothing had happened. With the closure of UK and EU airspace to Russian aircraft, it made no sense at all for our ports to be freely available to Russian vessels.  

"We await the details underpinning the ban, but at a time when good news is in short supply, this represents an excellent outcome."

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