Norwegian Government Expects the Business Sector to Adhere to Sanctions

Russisk tråler, Nord tral, til kai ved Kimek, Kirkenes
The Russian fishing trawler Nord Tral docked in Kirkenes, Eastern Finnmark, close to Kimek's shipyard. (Photo: Astri Edvardsen)

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has sent out a reminder about the sanctions which applied to Russian fishing vessels' port calls. Among other things, it is specified that only emergency repairs of Russian fishing vessels are allowed. This could severely affect one of the cornerstone businesses in the Norwegian border town Kirkenes.

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published a reminder of what Russian vessels are allowed and not allowed to do when they call at Norwegian ports. All services provided for Russian fishing vessels are essentially forbidden.

"We expect the Norwegian business sector to comply with the sanctions. It is punishable by law to break the sanctions. Both intentional and negligent acts are affected, says MFA Anniken Huitfeldt (Labor) in a press release.

Norway introduced a port ban for Russian vessels, with the exception of fishing vessels, on May 8th, 2022. The port ban is part of the historically strict sanctions that Norway has imposed in response to Russia's attack on Ukraine, which violates international law.

In October 2022, port access for Russian fishing vessels was further restricted to only apply to the three ports of Båtsfjord, Tromsø, and Kirkenes in Northern Norway.

Affects many sectors

The aim of the exception has always been the consideration of sustainable fishery cooperation between Norway and Russia.

The measures are meant to be extensive.
MFA Anniken Huitfeldt (Labor)

An exception from the port ban does not entail an exception from the sanctions in general. This is a statement the MFA has made several times.

"The sanctions against Russia affect many Norwegian business sectors, be it shipbuilding, oil and gas, fishery, etc. The measures in these sectors are meant to be extensive. The purpose of these is to reduce Russian opportunities to finance warfare in Ukraine," says Huitfeldt.

To emphasize this message, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a reminder of the ban on professional assistance for Russian vessels last week.

"I hope the reminder leads to more actors seeking out the MFA for guidance and possible exemptions from the sanctions where there is a basis for it. There is little leeway in regard to trading with Russia. It is easy to make mistakes. That is why we wish to provide an additional reminder of which rules apply for port calls for Russian vessels," says Huitfeldt.

Could lose their livelihood

The shipyard Kimek in Kirkenes is a cornerstone in the local community with 74 employees and 13 trainees. The company has long worked with repairing Russian fishing vessels. Now, however, the shipyard can only do emergency repairs.

Ordfører i Sør-Varanger Lena Norum Bergeng og Arbeiderpartiet støtter oppsigelsen av vennskapsavtalen med Severomorsk, men beholder Pechenga. (Arkivfoto: Trine Jonassen)
The Mayor of Sør-Varanger municipality, Lena Norum Bergeng. (Archive photo: Trine Jonassen)

To Norwegian broadcaster NRK, the Mayor of Sør-Varanger municipality, Lena Norum Bergeng, says it will affect the municipality if Kimek loses employees.

Last week, the municipality received a message from the MFA that a clarification of the sanctions regime would be coming.

The mayor points out to NRK that this has been in the cards for a long time and that they have made suggestions to the government.

Few exceptions

Russian fishing vessels can do the following in the three Norwegian ports:

  • Change crews
  • Refuelling (without other servicing)
  • Unloading (provided that what is to be unloaded does not contravene the import bans)
  • Provisions
  • Undergo control

It is possible to apply for exemptions for services "calculated for maritime safety". There is a generally high threshold for granting exceptions. For example, you cannot get an exemption for scheduled maintenance.

To get an exception, you must apply for it in the e-license application portal of the MFA. You must use the form for "general inquiries" when submitting.

Violations of the sanctioning regulations entail a police report with a maximum penalty of fines or imprisonment of up to three years or both. Negligent violations have an upper penalty limit of fines or imprisonment of up to six months or both.

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This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by Birgitte Annie Molid Martinussen.