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Russian tycoon's $150m superyacht reappears 2 weeks after switching off tracking signals, data shows

Business Insider US
The luxury megayacht 'Pacific', owned by Russian oligarch and billionaire Leonid Mikhelson. Sabri Kesen/Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
The luxury megayacht 'Pacific', owned by Russian oligarch and billionaire Leonid Mikhelson. Sabri Kesen/Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • A Russian oligarch's yacht has reappeared two weeks after switching off tracking signals, data shows.
  • Yachts turn off their tracking system to hide or create confusion, Spire COO John Lusk told Insider.
  • The yacht went dark in the Caribbean Sea but turned its trackers back on near the Canary Islands, as per data.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

A $150 million superyacht belonging to a Russian gas tycoon has reappeared two weeks after it stopped broadcasting its tracking signals, ship-tracking data shows.

Bloomberg was the first to report the data.

Pacific, owned by Novatek CEO and oligarch Leonid Mikhelson, turned off its tracking location on May 8 in the Caribbean Sea after setting sail from Marina Papagayo in Costa Rica three days earlier, according to data by analytics company Spire, cited by Bloomberg.

Spire provided Insider with its yacht tracker, which shows that the 280-feet vessel didn't move in the Caribbean Sea from May 8. However, its marker on the map jumps on May 20, pinpointing the yacht near the Canary Islands, off the west coast of Africa.

Data shows yachts' trackers switch on and off

"We're able to track them as long as they have their [automatic identification system (AIS)] transmitters on," Spire COO John Lusk told Insider in an interview. "What we're seeing with the oligarchs' yachts is that they're not always on, they kind of go on and off."

Pacific had switched its tracking signals back on when it reappeared near the Canary Islands with its next destination listed as Port Said in Egypt, Spire's data showed, reported by Bloomberg.

86-metre long luxury Mega yatch 'Pacific', owned by Russian art collector and entrepreneur Leonid Mikhelson, arrives at Cruise Port Harbour in Marmaris, Mugla, Turkey on September 15, 2020. Sabri Kesen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
86-metre long luxury Mega yatch 'Pacific', owned by Russian art collector and entrepreneur Leonid Mikhelson, arrives at Cruise Port Harbour in Marmaris, Mugla, Turkey on September 15, 2020. Sabri Kesen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Before the yacht turned off its location transponder in the Caribbean Sea, it reported that its next destination was Nassau in the Bahamas, as per the data, cited in Bloomberg. Authorities in the Bahamas have helped the US to seize vessels in the past.

Turning AIS off could mean hiding or creating confusion, Spire says

"The only reason why you would turn off your AIS transponder is if you don't want to be found," Lusk said. Another reason you'd switch off your location is to "sow confusion," he said.

All ships of 300 gross metric tons or more, which travel on international voyages must have AIS transmitters to provide information about their location to authorities and other vessels, the International Maritime Organization's website says.

Lusk said that the yachts' trackers must be turned on when it's arriving or leaving a port but Spire has found that the oligarchs' vessels tend to go dark out in the ocean.

Pacific isn't the first yacht owned by a Russian oligarch to stop broadcasting tracking signals. Vagit Alekperov's $80 million superyacht, Galactica Super Nova, also stopped its tracking signals after leaving Montenegro in early March after sanctions.


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