The introduction of the G7 oil price caps – on crude oil last December and on refined products in February – saw Russia state emphatically that it would not work with the price cap. However, the vast majority of seaborne Russian oil shipments hitherto have relied on services provided by companies based in the G7.
Russia’s existing fleet does not have enough capacity. The result has been the emergence of a shadow fleet of vessels to transport its oil output.
That this had been occurring was no secret. The value of second-hand tankers was on the rise; smaller vessels that had left Russian ports such as Ust-Luga were meeting up with larger tankers for ship-to-ship transfers, enabling longer distance journeys to Asian importers and other countries that were not part of the G7 sanctions regime.
S&P Global Market Intelligence said in a white paper that there had been “multiple estimates as to how many vessels make up the Russian shadow fleet. While an exact number in the shadow fleet would be difficult to determine, there are certain vessels with particular characteristics and patterns that can be used in an assessment of ships likely to be involved in the transfer or movement of Russian oil,”
The paper has estimated that 443 tanker vessels of more than 10,000 dwt were currently operating within the Russian shadow fleet.
S&P Global Market Intelligence’s whitepaper based its methodology on the following:
- Vessels with a current Russian registration or ownership entity since the G7 oil price cap was introduced on December 5th 2022
- Vessels making their first port call or STS with Russia after December 5th
- Vessels previously working Iranian or Venezuelan oil tanker routes but which have now switched to Russian cargoes
- Vessels sold with missing ownership entities or having an unknown or undisclosed buyer since August 2022 (the G7 oil price cap was announced in September 2022).
The white paper estimated the number of vessels with a wider potential for risk in regard to Russian sanctions at 1,900. Candidates included vessels of all nationalities and ownership that have made Russian port calls, STS transfers etc. Of these 1,900 ships, the majority are Greek-owned. They cover a wide range of flag registries, including from the Marshall Islands, Liberia and Panama. (However, since these are also major flags for vessels that have not entered the shadow fleet, and a large percentage of independent tankers are Greek-owned, not much can be read into this).
S&P Global Market Intelligence also observed that new vessels had begun to work the Russian tanker routes. There were 35 new vessels that had visited Russian oil ports for the first time in the period between December 5th 2022 and February 16th this year, the report said.
The nationalities of the majority of these vessels were the Marshall Islands, Panama, Liberia and Hong Kong.
The paper said that 63% of these vessels were more than 13 years old, with a maximum age of 27 years. They were making direct journeys and discharging cargo in Egypt, Nigeria, China, and India.
It was reported that the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on the North African Mediterranean coast had been the recent hotspot for STS transfers, with a monthly average of 18 between October 2022 and January 2023.
The number of unique vessels conducting STS activity in the Ceuta zone increased from two per month, in May 2022, to 20 in January 2023.
The predominant flag states engaged in this activity in Ceuta were the Marshall Islands, Panama, Cameroon, Belize and Liberia.
Other STS transfer hubs for Russian oil were the Peloponnese region of Greece and South Korea, the report stated.
Russian diesel saw multiple cargo deliveries to Tunisia in 2023. For the first two months of 2023, Russian refined product cargoes delivered to Tunisia have already exceeded the total volume in 2022, the white paper said.
S&P Global’s paper said that an increasing number of vessels that once worked the Venezuelan oil cargo route, and engaged in ‘suspicious activity’ when delivering these shipments, were moving over to Russian tanker routes.
Source Insurance Marine News 21/3/2023