Appeal rejected on the arrest of superyacht PHI

Captain speaks out on 2022 detention of 58m Phi following appeals process

18 January 2024 • by Stewart Campbell

The captain of the 58.5-metre Royal Huisman Phi is hoping the superyacht's long incarceration in London will soon be over following an appeal challenging the detention in the UK Court of Appeal.

Over three days in January, lawyers representing the owner of the yacht, who has never appeared on any sanctions list, argued that Phi was detained for an "improper purpose" and that a ruling in July 2023 upholding the detention was unlawful.

"The detention of Phi cannot be justified as encouraging Russia to cease action against Ukraine. This should have been apparent to the government from the outset," claimed the defence. "The effects of the detention are disproportionate."

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Speaking to BOAT International, Guy Booth, who acted as build captain and remains with the boat, said: "We are ever hopeful that common sense will prevail and we continue to have faith in the justice system."

The superyacht was stopped from leaving London in March 2022 on the basis of recently introduced regulations that allowed authorities to detain a ship "owned, controlled, chartered or operated by persons connected with Russia".

Then Transport Secretary Grant Schapps appeared before TV cameras in front of the yacht in London's Canary Wharf, claiming the detention of Phi was "a clear warning to Putin and his cronies".

Booth said: "The owner of Phi is not connected to Putin, nor is he an associate of anyone who is connected to Putin. The UK government have had two years to prove a link between the owner and Putin and they have failed. It was confirmed in court that there is no link between the owner and the Russian leadership."

The ruling from July 2023 case confirms this, stating: "The unchallenged evidence is that [the owner] holds no political or administrative position in Russia, has never engaged in any form of political activity, and has never had any connections of any kind with President Putin."

The captain went further, arguing Schapps issued "inaccurate and defamatory" statements to the press. "He used words like 'oligarch' and 'crony' and 'close friends of President Putin', when he knew this not to be the case."

Despite the boat being detained in London, the owner is free to use the yacht and money to pay for its crew and maintenance continues to flow. His other boats, located in European waters, meanwhile, are free to operate.

"The owner's other boats have been operating and chartering in the Med for the last two years. The governments of Malta, Italy, France, Spain and Monaco had a really close look and found no legal grounds to stop the boats moving," added Booth.

Booth said if the Court of Appeal rules in favour of Phi's owner, he will be entitled to claim damages. "And who will pay for that? The British taxpayer. So the government don't want to do that leading up to an election. People will rightly ask, 'what was the point of detaining the yacht? To simply stroke people's egos?'"

BOAT International has contacted representatives for the Secretary of State for Transport for comment.

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More about this yacht

Royal Huisman   58.5 m •  2021