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Politics / Carmichael writes to prime minister calling for sanctions over Russian-owned tankers

The NS Challenger at Sullom Voe Terminal. Photo: Shetland News

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has now written to UK prime minister Boris Johnson about Russian state-owned oil tankers using local facilities – with another ship due to arrive in Orkney on Tuesday.

During the week eyebrows were raised when a tanker operated by Russian state-owned company Sovcomflot – one of the world’s largest players in oil and gas transportation – was allowed to load oil at Sullom Voe Terminal.

The NS Challenger‘s visit came after the imposition of sanctions following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Carmichael raised the matter with Johnson in the House of Commons, with the prime minister vowing to look into the matter.

While the NS Challenger has now left Shetland, a second tanker – the NS Champion – is due to arrive at Flotta terminal in Orkney on Tuesday.

Currently such vessels operate freely and cannot legally be denied access to ports by local authorities.

Carmichael has now written directly to Johnson to say that he should deny Sovcomflot vessels access to UK ports.

“Local people in the Northern Isles were pleased to hear you say that you would ‘immediately investigate what is happening with the Sovcomflot oil tanker’ and that ‘The result of the measures that the House passed the other day is that we can now target any entity—any company—that has any relation with the Russian state. We have that power’,” the MP said.

“It is imperative, therefore, that you should act without delay to ensure that Sovcomflot is sanctioned and denied access for their vessels to British ports.

“Like right thinking people across the United Kingdom, the people of Orkney have been sickened by what we have seen on our television screens of the Russian attack on Ukraine.

“We expect you, as our Prime Minister, to act to stop this continued trade that is earning money to fund the slaughter of Ukrainian citizens.”

Carmichael also added that Scapa Flow in Orkney “was at the centre of the UK’s naval effort in two world wars in the twentieth century” – and was the final resting place of many who lost their lives when HMS Royal Oak was torpedoed and sunk in 1939.

“To allow Sovcomflot to operate without let or hindrance in Scapa Flow would be to dishonour the memory of the sacrifice that the crew of the Royal Oak made in their fight against fascism of the sort that is currently engaged in attacking the people of Ukraine,” he said.

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has also raised concerns about the tanker visiting his constituency to first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

He said: “It is right that the UK has taken steps to freeze assets and cut off economic ties with Russia, but we need to do more.

“In keeping with the rationale for sanctions there can be no question of these vessels, operated by companies who are owned by the Russian state, accessing ports in this country.

“While this is something that will need to be resolved at a UK level, I have urged the First Minister and Transport Secretary to lend the Scottish Government support in efforts to stop these vessels.”