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Russia Appears to Be Amassing a Dark Fleet to Ship LNG

Russia appears to have started to amass a dark fleet of tankers to ship its LNG in vessel ownership transfers similar to the moves that Moscow began after the invasion of Ukraine to create a shadow fleet to export oil and products in the face of Western sanctions.

Russia has already amassed a large shadow fleet of oil tankers, and it’s now working on a similar plan for LNG to circumvent current and future sanctions on its LNG, according to data from shipping database providers cited by Bloomberg.

The analysis by Bloomberg has found that little-known shipping firms operating from Dubai’s free trade zone have assumed ownership of at least eight vessels in the past three months, per data from shipping database Equasis. Of these, four ice-class LNG carriers have already received approval from Russia’s authorities to pass through the Arctic route in Russia this summer. Moscow also appears to have issued a record number of permits for this route, the Northern Sea route. Some of the tankers with new ownership don’t have listed insurers—another sign of a vessel now part of a “dark fleet.”

“There are several indications pointing to efforts by Russia to create a dark fleet for LNG,” Malte Humpert, founder of the Washington D.C.-based think tank Arctic Institute, told Bloomberg.

The transfer of ownership of vessels to little-known entities in little transparent jurisdictions outside Russia bears a striking resemblance to the Russian moves from two years ago when Moscow started amassing the dark fleet for its oil, Bloomberg notes.

Russia has been seeking a larger share of the global LNG market, but U.S. sanctions have delayed the start-up of the Arctic LNG 2 project, while the EU just this week banned new investments, as well as the provision of goods, technology, and services for the completion of LNG projects under construction, such as Arctic LNG 2 and Murmansk LNG.

The EU is also banning transshipment operations of Russian LNG to third countries in EU territory after a transition period of 9 months. This first EU move against Russia’s LNG could speed up the creation of a shadow Russian LNG fleet.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on June 27 2024 said:
    And why not? With Western most unprecedented sanctions to cripple its economy and halt its energy experts, Russia has every right to find ways to evade these sanctions, hence its reported amassing of a dark fleet to ship its LNG.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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