Denmark says Russian science ship detained over Canadian legal dispute

The Russian research ship Akademik Ioffe is pictured outside the port of Skagen, Denmark, on Nov 5, 2021.
The Russian research ship Akademik Ioffe is pictured outside the port of Skagen, Denmark, on Nov 5, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

COPENHAGEN (AFP) - Danish authorities said on Friday (Nov 5) that a Russian science vessel, currently held in Denmark, had been detained due to a legal dispute in Canada.

A judge at the district court in the city of Hjorring told AFP she had ordered the seizure of the ship on Monday, to be kept as collateral in a case brought by a Canadian tour operator.

The Russian embassy in Denmark confirmed the detention of the state-owned research vessel Akademik Ioffe on Wednesday, saying the action "was carried out as an interim measure in a third-party claim".

One Ocean Expeditions, which had previously rented the Russian state-owned Akademik Ioffe via a Cypriot company for cruises, blames the crew of the ship for an accident that occurred in Canada's north in 2018.

According to court documents seen by AFP, the tour operator is demanding 39.6 million Danish kroner (S$8.3 million) in damages from the ship's owner, Russia 's Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, for costs incurred in relation to the accident.

"This is a claim against an independent institution owned by the Russian state, so the possibilities of enforcement are very limited if you don't have the ship as collateral," the Danish court explained in its decision to seize the ship.

The court also notes that "the rules on state immunity are not applicable", even though the vessel is state-owned, as this is a strictly commercial dispute.

A first attempt to seize the vessel was made in Portugal, but it escaped, the court said.

A spokeswoman for the Russian embassy in Denmark told AFP the mission in Copenhagen was in contact with the 38 crew members and 23 scientists on board the ship.