Ultimately, the authorities can’t allow the yachts to completely disintegrate as they could pose an environmental risk.
“It would be completely irresponsible to not maintain the yachts. If you don’t look after a boat properly, the metals that come into contact with the water will get eaten away. And this would take some time but eventually the boat will sink. This is obviously a massive pollution risk because they are holding tonnes of fuel,” Maltby says.
A sanctioned oligarch, however, is unable to pay for the services required to maintain their vessels even if they wanted to.
What happens next likely lies in the hands of the court. With the companies piling up debts, the suppliers could apply to a court to demand payment. In the world of yachting, demanding payment from a company is called an arrest – any sale could be for a fraction of a yacht’s value.
“It’s similar to the winding-up of a company,” says Maltby. “If you arrest a vessel because you’ve supplied goods to the owner who hasn’t paid, and security isn’t put up for payment, you can ask the court to seize and sell the yacht. And you will benefit from the proceeds after the court fees and legal fees have all been paid off.
“Generally, the yacht would be auctioned, or there would be a sealed bid tender process and you would get your money back. But the yacht itself would not achieve anything like its true market value.”
An auction of an oligargh’s superyacht would no doubt garner huge attention.
Ocean Independence’s Huerzeler says his clients would love to go to such a high-profile event for a cut-price deal on a valuable asset, but warns that any buyer is taking on huge risks such as potential legal battles years down the line if an oligarch tries to take their yacht back.
“A lot of our clients are hoping for an auction. People are very interested in buying these yachts and they are hoping they can get some good offers on the market,” he says.
“But I’m personally very sceptical. There aren’t that many people who can and want to buy such a huge yacht. I don’t see people popping up to buy an asset with such an extreme running cost as well. And they will want proof of ownership – who is going to feel safe buying that yacht?”
Creditors of the stranded superyachts may need to find buyers willing to snap up the yachts before they lose value – and fend off the likes of Sechin if they are ever to receive payment.