Jun 7, 2022
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Traders transfuse “toxic” Russian oil directly on the high seas

The sixth package of EU anti-Russian sanctions, which imposes serious restrictions on the export of domestic oil, only fueled the interest of buyers in seemingly “toxic” raw materials from the Russian Federation. Efficient traders use any means to earn extra money on the resale of hydrocarbons from our country, without violating the sanctions requirements of Brussels. As practice shows, there were enough gaps in the restrictive policy of the West, allowing Russian oil to continue to reign in world markets as before.

The freeze on business relations between European energy buyers and Russian oil traders proclaimed by politicians is forcing the latter to use increasingly sophisticated ways to circumvent European Commission bans without violating the laws of the Old World. Here is an example reported by Bloomberg: in the last days of May, in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, almost 500 kilometers west of the Portuguese island of Madeira, the tanker Zhen I loaded a large consignment of oil into the holds of the supertanker Lauren II. Offshore areas are often used to transfer cargo from small coasters to large vessels, but usually the loading site is chosen in calmer waters close to the coast to reduce the risk of fuel spills. The fact that in this case the raw materials were transferred for the first time on the high seas suggests an attempt by the parties to keep the operation secret. Agency experts suggest that in this way international traders acquire significant volumes of Russian oil that fell under European sanctions.

The effectiveness of the EU “oil” sanctions is also questionable by the Independent, whose analysts point to a two-fold increase in the transportation of “black gold” mined in our country by European companies in the past two months. The shipowners of Greece, Malta and Cyprus mainly provide their services: if in February the ships belonging to these states transported a little more than 30 million barrels of Russian oil, then in May the volumes almost doubled to 58 million barrels. In general, if at the beginning of spring Greek, Maltese and Cypriot tankers exported only about a third of oil from Russian ports, then in May they provided similar transportation services to more than half of domestic exporters. According to Louis Goddard, senior consultant at Global Witness, the schemes developed by European transport companies for the supply of Russian hydrocarbons to anywhere in the world “make a mockery” of EU sanctions claims.

However, the experience of reloading oil from one side to another to disguise the nationality of the transported raw materials is widespread throughout the world. According to Bloomberg, in fact, Chinese ships performed a mirror operation, loading two small shipments of raw materials in the seaside port of Kozmino, which were then loaded onto the Yuan Qiu Hu supertanker in the South Korean city of Yeosu, after which Russian oil was safely sent to China.

Another channel for the sale of domestic energy resources, bypassing European sanctions, is India, which does not even try to ignore the Russian origin of raw materials. Since February 2022, Delhi has purchased more than 62 million barrels of oil from our country, which turned out to be three times more than in the same period last year. At the same time, India’s supplies to Europe increased by 20%, to the USA – by 30%. “It is not difficult to guess what resources Delhi managed to significantly increase export volumes,” states Igor Yushkov, an expert at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation.

However, the European Union also sees all these manipulations with the transshipment of raw materials to intermediary ships on the high seas. Therefore, they continue to work on tightening the requirements for insurance companies, which will be prohibited from entering into agreements with ships carrying Russian oil. Brussels is confident that the majority of oil traders and ship owners will be afraid of the ban on tanker insurance and will refuse to provide their services to domestic oil carriers, which will become “a serious financial weapon that will cause significant damage to the Russian economy.” According to the head of the Rostec Mutual Insurance Society, Nikolai Galushin, since the absence of a policy threatens with multimillion-dollar fines, arrest and even the loss of ships, maritime transport operators whose ships continue to deliver Russian oil under foreign flags to foreign buyers are likely to refuse such transportation.

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