Government prolongs Russia's permission to call on ports in Northern Norway

10

“It’s a fundamental interest for Norway to maintain the fish stocks in the Barents Sea. This is important for employment and people in the north, especially so for Finnmark,” says Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy, Marianne Sivertsen Næss.

Norway was soon to introduce exceptions to EU-sanctions on Russian vessels to European ports after the outbreak of the full-scale war against Ukraine in February 2022. Later, measures were taken to strengthen control and port calls were limited to three ports.

Further restrictions will now be implemented, the Government says in a statement Friday afternoon.

“Control activity is already high, but the police and customs are now strengthening their controls, and we are placing stricter requirements on Russian fishing vessels when staying in port,” says Minister of Justice and Public Security, Emilie Enger Mehl.

Minister Emilie Enger Mehl says even tighter restrictions could be introduced if needed. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Sabotage fear 

Russian vessels will from now only get access to pre-defined areas in the harbors, Customs will work in closer cooperation with the Police Security Service (PST), and the Armed Forces will be in charge of control at sea. 

A Russian flagged ship will only be allowed to stay in port for a maximum of five days, the Government makes clear. 

The new regulations are introduced amid increased fear of hybrid sabotage operations across Europe by actors linked to Moscow.

There is a growing concern in northern Europe about Russia targeting seabed infrastructure like communication cables and pipelines, the EU Today reported this week. 

 

Police, Customs and Coast Guard will keep control of Norwegian ports and waters along the coast. Like here in Kirkenes. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

 

Russia is totally unhappy with Norway limiting access of trawlers and other fishing vessels to harbors along the coast. The two countries shares common stocks of cod and other spices in the Norwegian- and Barents Seas. 

“The Russian side considers Norway’s unilateral restrictions concerning Russian fishing vessels to be illegitimate,” the protocol for this year’s fishery agreement reads. 

Moscow continues with a direct threat:

“In the event that further unilateral restrictions will apply to the Russian fishing vessels’ access to ports in Norway are introduced, the Russian party reserves the right to suspend this protocol without regard to the deadlines set in §7 of the Rules of Procedure for the Norwegian-Russian Joint Fisheries Commission.”

It is this statement that scares the Norwegian Government. 

Minister Marianne Sivertsen Næss says the new regulations “take care of both sustainable (fishery) management and better control in ports.”

Chief of Police in Finnmark, Ellen Katrine Hætta, has previously said it is difficult to have a good control of all Russian ships. 

Asked by TV2 about possible export of sanctioned items, Hætta said: “We have no reason to believe that it has not happened.”

Last winter, NRK together with other Nordic broadcasters, documented that Russian fishing vessels sailing in and out of Tromsø had a special interest in US Navy submarines when they made port calls after missions in northern waters. 

The documentary, The Shadow War, also pointed to suspicious sailings by Russian trawlers near Norwegian critical subsea infrastructure.