Suffolk ports are working with the government to ensure no Russian-owned or operated ships dock in the county.

Yesterday transport secretary Grant Shapps wrote to all UK ports telling them not to provide access to any ship believed to be registered in Russia, flying the Russian flag or owned, controlled, chartered or operated by “any person connected with Russia”.

East Anglian Daily Times: Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has written to all UK portsTransport Secretary Grant Shapps has written to all UK ports (Image: Richard Townshend Photography)

He added that the UK Government will try to pass legislation prohibiting their arrival.

A spokeswoman for ABP, which runs Ipswich and Lowestoft ports, said: “Following the government's instruction not to allow Russian vessels into UK ports, we are working closely with colleagues in the Department for Transport and other government agencies to ensure that all vessels that come into our ports are fully compliant with this direction.

"For safety reasons, we will complete the discharge of any Russian vessels already underway in our ports.”

The Secretary of State's request is understood to be unlikely to affect the Port of Felixstowe which deals largely in containers from the Far East.

A spokesman for Hutchison Ports, which operates the port, said there were "no Russian-flagged or operated vessels calling at the port".

In his letter, Mr Shapps wrote: “Russia’s assault on Ukraine is an unprovoked, premeditated attack against a sovereign democratic state.

“The UK Government has been clear there would be massive consequences and a severe cost for any Russian military incursion into Ukraine and, in coordination with our international allies and partners, we are developing an unprecedented package of further sanctions.

“The maritime sector is fundamental to international trade and we must play our part in restricting Russia’s economic interests and holding the Russian government to account.

“In these circumstances, the Department for Transport does not consider it appropriate for Russian vessels to enter UK ports.”

He added that the UK Government will “seek to support UK ports in identifying Russian ships” and alert them if prohibited vessels are inbound.

A spokesman for one major Suffolk shipping firm, which asked not to be named, said ports may start refusing to unload Russian cargo – or even refuse to allow Russian crew members to disembark.

If this step is taken, it would likely affect ports in Suffolk more than a ban on vessels.