Oil tankers with unknown owners being amassed to ship Russian oil, Bloomberg reports

23 October 2022, 12:45 PM
Oil tanker, illustrative photo (Photo:Vesselfinder)

Oil tanker, illustrative photo (Photo:Vesselfinder)

A vast shadow fleet of oil tankers is being formed to service Moscow’s interests, the Bloomberg financial news agency reported on Oct. 23. According to them, Moscow is gathering 240 ships to support the four million barrels a day of Russian exports to the Far East.

Christian Ingerslev, the chief executive officer of Maersk Tankers A/S in Copenhagen, which operates a fleet of 170 ships, told Bloomberg that “If you look at how many ships have been sold over the past six months to undisclosed buyers, it’s very clear that a fleet is being built up in order to transport this.”

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According to shipbroker Braemar’s estimates, these 240 ships have had a history of assisting sanctions-laden petroregimes in continuing their oil exports – many of the tankers, including some of the 102 Aframaxes, 58 Suezmaxes, and 80 very-large crude carriers, were involved in shipping Iranian and Venezuelan crude just last year.

The head of tanker research at Braemar, Anoop Singh, also corroborated Ingerslev’s observations, noting a recent sharp rise in tanker trading. The buyers are undisclosed entities based namely in Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Cyprus. Many of the tankers are older ships, but the paper trail leading back to often obscure shell companies makes definite provenance difficult to establish. However, Russian shipowner Sovcomflot PJSC is believed to have supplied some tankers for Russia’s shadow fleet effort as well.

Moscow isn’t only relying on a a shadow fleet to export its oil – according to Bloomberg, Russia will also be making increasing use of ship-to-ship transfers on the open seas: a result of the sanctions risk from handling exports directly from Russian ports and the need to collate a few small cargoes onto larger tankers for long-haul shipments.

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