REPORT: INDIAN CLASS WITHDRAWN ON SANCTIONED RUSSIAN TANKERS

16 MAY 2024 

Russian shipping interests continue to shuffle around the registry details of their large crude tankers in an apparent effort to address the Western sanctions on vessels. Reuters conducted an analysis and found that 12 of the 14 tankers listed by the United States in February 2024 have been moved to the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping, some having changed class societies or flags twice in a matter of months.

The U.S. and its allies in the G7 reported at the end of February they were moving against both Russian shipping company Sovcomflot and tankers that had regularly transported oil in violation of the price cap imposed by the West as a punishment for the invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. blocked 14 tankers controlled by Sovcomflot on February 28. Before that, they had listed 20 tankers being run through third-party management companies in locations such as Dubai and elsewhere. 

The review of the databases conducted by Reuters shows the Indian Register of Shipping which had stepped in to class the ships now shows 12 of the tankers with the notations class withdrawn. The vessels are appearing in the Russian Maritime Register with new names. Flags on the vessels also appear to have been shifted to Russia.

The shell game with the vessels shuffling them between flags and class societies is so complicated most databases have not yet caught up with the vessels. Some of the vessels, such as the NS Bravo (IMO:9412359) is now the Belgorod having entered Russian class as of April. The well-known Equasis database reflects the ship had been in the Liberian registry since it was built in 2010 until January 2024 when it shifted to Gabon and now in April to Russia.

Most of the vessels identified in the report by Reuters show a similar history. Most moved into the Gabon registry earlier this and now over the Russian flag. The tanker Sakhalin Island appears to have been in the Panama registry until moving to the Russian flag.

The United States had a dialog with the officials in Panama seeking to win their support to clampdown on more of the tankers violating sanctions. American officials reported they encouraged Panama to continue efforts to withdraw registry from vessels violating the sanctions.

The report that the Indian Registry had withdrawn vessels goes counter to a report last month that India had provided access to insurance for the Russian vessels. India’s refineries appeared to stop imports on Russian vessels fearing the sanctions but resumed the imports in April.

Reports have said that Russia wants to keep the exports on its own tankers to earn the transportation fees. However, the shadow fleet of tankers also continues to grow.

In recent days there have been numerous reports that the EU and the UK are looking at new sanctions. Among the steps being prepared by the EU are moves against Russian LNG exports while the UK Treasury is investigating steps against price cap violators. 

The U.S. continues to also impose ever-increasing rounds of sanctions including a massive wave at the beginning of May against the Russian oil sector.  It continues to be a back-and-forth effort with Russia shuffling around the assets and the West trying to close loopholes and snare more individuals and ships.

 

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