LONDON — Dock workers in Britain are taking a stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with ports in the country refusing to unload Russian oil and gas.
Tough sanctions from the U.K. government mean that Russian ships are not allowed to dock at British ports. However, a loophole means that Russian goods and energy can still be transported into the country using foreign ships — there is currently no blockade on oil and gas from Russia.
It appears that workers at these ports are now taking matters into their own hands.
Essar Group, which runs the Stanlow refinery in northwest England, said a German-flagged vessel had been given approval to berth at the nearby Tranmere Oil Terminal on the River Mersey. However, Sharon Graham, the general secretary of U.K. union Unite, said that her members will “under no circumstances unload any Russian oil regardless of the nationality of the vessel which delivers it.”
“I am very proud of @unitetheunion’s members taking a principled stand to prevent Russian oil coming to our ports,” she added via a tweet early on Sunday.
“But it is appalling that they have been put in this position by the @GOVUK, which is still dragging its feet on sanctions.”
Meanwhile, two Russian ships that were due to dock in Kent, in southeast England, were turned away this weekend due to the sanctions. Staff at the Grain LNG port had expressed their anger that they might be asked to unload the ships’ cargoes.
“The workers at the National Grid terminal don’t want to touch the cargo given the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine,” Matt Lay, head of energy for the Unison union which represents workers at the Kent terminal, said earlier this week.
“These staff are determined to show their support for the Ukrainian people and uphold the sanctions imposed against Russia.”
One of the ships, the Boris Vilkitsky with a consignment of gas, docked at the port of Montoir-de-Bretagne in France on Saturday after being refused into Britain.
Greenpeace said in a statement that it had confronted the tanker in an inflatable at sea, with the activists displaying a banner reading “Fossil Fuels War” as it arrived in France.
In the Netherlands, where Russian ships are not currently banned, dock workers are also reportedly taking a stand. The workers are reportedly preparing for a legal backlash from oil companies and shippers.
Niek Stam, a spokesperson for Dutch union FNV Havens, told journalism unit Source Material: “There is blood on this oil, blood on this coal and blood on the gas … We are in the process of finding out how we can boycott it without risking an enormous fine in court.”
A spokesperson for the British government told Sky News that it was mandatory for all ports and harbors to follow legislation banning all Russian ships.
They added that U.K. ministers were exploring options to “further reduce the already small amount of imports we do get from Russia.”
“We continue to urge Europe to put in place plans to end their dependence in Russian gas,” they added.