The United States and several other Western countries plus Ukraine are calling for increased surveillance for cracking down illicit ship-to-ship transfers of oil, which have soared since the embargoes on Russian crude and product exports came into effect.
"These transfers undermine the rules-based international order and increase the risk of pollution to nearby coastal States. This threatens global efforts to prevent pollution from ships," the U.S., the UK, Denmark, Australia, Canada, Spain, and Ukraine wrote in a paper submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and carried by Reuters.
Ship-to-ship (STS) transfers have soared since the West announced last year that it would impose bans on seaborne imports of Russian crude oil and petroleum products unless those cargoes are bought at or below G7-set price caps.
Deceptive shipping practices to hide the origin of cargoes or their destinations are also threatening the safety and security of international shipping, the U.S. and its allies wrote in the paper to the IMO, the shipping agency of the United Nations.
Loadings of Russia's flagship Urals crude using ship-to-ship transfers in the Mediterranean surged eight times in January from December to a record in the first full month in which the EU banned seaborne imports of Russian crude oil.
The price cap on Russian oil has also spurred a rise in the 'dark' or 'shadow' fleet of oil tankers, which now includes tankers shipping sanctioned Iranian and Venezuelan oil and increasingly larger volumes of Russian oil and products.
"More than 440 tankers above 30,000 dwt tonnes, with an average age of 20 years, have been identified as solely deployed in shipping Iranian, Venezuelan and Russian oil, with beneficial owners hiding behind byzantine corporate structures," a Lloyd's List analysis showed in March.
"The number has increased by over 180 tankers in the past 12 months, as Western sanctions on Russian oil imports and shipments to third countries drive the expansion of shadowy and unregulated maritime transport."
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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The evidence staring it in the face is that despite unprecedented sanctions, bans and a price cap, Russia has managed three times this year so far to break records in its exports of crude and petroleum products. The first in January when it exported 8.2 million barrels a day (mbd) compared with pre-Ukraine level of 8.0 mbd. The second time in March when its exports hit 8.1 mbd and the third record in May when it’s exports hit 8.3 mbd.
Therefore Western surveillance to curb illicit oil transfers won’t fare better.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Global Energy Expert