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Home Economics & Trade Faroese communities, businesses feel pinch from port closure for Russian fishing vessels

Faroese communities, businesses feel pinch from port closure for Russian fishing vessels

Russian vessels berthed at Tórshavn's Fort Wharf, April 21st, 2023. Image credits: Bui Tyril.

Tiny Faroe Islands have at last caved in to shoot themselves in the proverbial foot by joining the band wagon of economic sanctions against Russia following the giant country’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

After months of back and forth over the socioeconomic danger of embarking on an exercise in potential self-hurt, the Faroese Government a month ago announced a measure of significant port closures to reduce the activities of Russian fishing vessels in the island nation.

“The Government of the Faroe Islands has imposed further restrictive measures against Russia by considerably limiting port access for Russian fishing vessels,” the Prime Minister’s Office stated, calling the Russian Federation’s so-called special military operation an “illegal attack on Ukraine” with some largely symbolic responsive measures initiated in June 2022.

“These measures have been amended with executive order number 89 of 6 July 2023, entering into force on 12 July 2023,” the Government stated on July 7th.

Under this executive order, harsh restrictions imposed on Russian fishing vessels, controversially, make their operations in Faroese ports impossible for all intents and purposes.

“Since 5 July 2022, [merchant] vessels registered under the Russian flag have not been provided access to Faroese ports,” the Government statement added. “During this period, fishing vessels have been exempted from Faroese restrictive measures. With the new measures only Russian fishing vessels exclusively conducting fisheries under the bilateral agreement between the Faroe Islands and Russia will be allowed to enter Faroese ports. These Russian fishing vessels may continue to conduct crew change, bunkering, provisioning, landing and transshipment.”

A main argument cited in the Faroes for abstaining from implementing sanctions on fishing vessels, is the fact that the United Nations Secretary General has unambiguously advised against sanctioning food to avoid causing food scarcity anywhere in the world.  As it turns out, however, that argument has now been overruled essentially without explanation.

Shortly after the public announcement of these new anti-Russian measures, Russian vessels vanished out of sight, perhaps unexpectedly for those who somewhat naively may have imagined that the vessels would continue to call at the ports despite the virtual blanket ban—after all, these are generally vessels with mixed holds and it would be all but impossible for them to separate their fish caught in Faroese waters from fish caught in international waters nearby.

Their sudden disappearance has caused a stir in places where Russian vessels were most commonly seen, most notably Runavík, Fuglafjørður, and Klaksvík, and to an extent Tórshavn as well.

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