Jack Sweeney, a freshman at the University of Central Florida, has started out by posting a list of some of the yachts on Twitter, and noted that the tracking isn’t “automated yet.”
Wealthy Kremlin-supporting Russians are trying to hide their superyachts amid sanctions from the U.S. and other allies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets,” Biden during his State of the Union last week, addressing the oligarchs. “We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”
Sweeney’s yacht tracking comes at a critical time.
The Associated Press reported Saturday that it was tracing the movements of some 56 super-yachts (over 79 feet long) believed to be owned by “Kremlin-aligned” Russian oligarchs.
Using online tracking services VesselFinder and MarineTraffic, AP discovered that more than a dozen of the vessels were heading to — or had arrived at — remote ports in small nations, possibly beyond the reach of Western sanctions. A few others had mysteriously gone dark.
Some massive yachts have been seized, however. French authorities, for example, took the $120 million, 289-foot super-yacht Amore Vero last week in the Mediterranean resort town of La Ciotat, even as the crew was scrambling to make a quick departure, the AP reported.
The yacht is believed to belong to Igor Sechin, a Putin ally who runs Russian oil giant Rosneft.
New yacht-tracker Sweeney first drew widespread attention in January when he was profiled in tech publication Protocol for tracking Musk’s flights and posting what he found on his Twitter account @ElonJet.
He later said he would stop if Musk paid him $50,000 (Musk had reportedly offered $5,000). Sweeney’s account is still tracking Musk’s flights.
Sweeney then began tracking the private jets of Russian oligarchs in response to several requests to do so after the invasion of Ukraine. Sweeney discovered that the jets appeared to be traveling on a daily basis, despite financial sanctions and airspace travel restrictions imposed on Russia by the U.S. and other Ukraine allies.
Sweeney tracks the flights using public data from the ADS-B Exchange. It’s not yet clear what he’ll use to hunt down the oligarchs’ yachts.