WWL Car Carrier entering Port of Zeebrugge Photo 150538827 © Drewrawcliffe Dreamstime.com
Port of Antwerp-Bruges © Drewrawcliffe Dreamstime.com

Some 8,000 luxury cars destined for Russia are stranded at the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium, as the authorities grapple with the intricacies of the terms and conditions of western sanctions on the Putin regime following its invasion of Ukraine.

The cars, said to include some of the latest models from Lexus, Cadillac and Mercedes, arrived from Asia at the start of the month and were to have been prepared at the Belgian port for transhipment to Russia.

However, the ban on luxury goods to Russia prohibits vehicles valued at more than €50,000 ($52,390), from being exported.

“Customs says they have to be here, and they are blocked. We don’t know how long they will stay. My guess is that we will be looking for alternative markets,” Marc Adriansens, director of Zeebrugge’s International Car Operators (ICO) terminal, told the Euronews TV channel.

“We can accommodate up to 10,000 vehicles so there is still room,” he noted, adding: “The sanctions are also affecting other categories of goods. I have heard that 1,100 containers are stuck (at Zeebrugge) because of them.”

The situation at Zeebrugge demonstrates the confusion at some of Europe’s leading ports over how to interpret and enforce sanctions against Russia.

According to the port authority, Zeebrugge handled 2.2 million new cars in 2020, making it the busiest car port in the world. In total, it has parking areas which can accommodate up to 210,000 vehicles.

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