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Russia’s Sokol Crude Starts to Move to India Again via Traders

Despite stricter enforcement of the U.S. sanctions against Russian oil exports, some tankers loaded with Russia’s Sokol crude grade are near India signaling Indian ports as their destinations, vessel-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg showed on Tuesday.  

After more than a year of gorging on cheaper Russian crude, Indian refiners began to avoid Sokol shipments at the end of last year and avoid taking delivery of crude loaded on tankers of Russian state fleet owner Sovcomflot, following the ramp-up of U.S. sanctions on Russia.

It now appears that some of the Sokol trade may have returned, via traders offering attractive discounts, refining sources have told Bloomberg.

According to the ship-tracking data the newswire has compiled, three tankers carrying Sokol crude are near India’s west and east coasts. It’s not clear if they would discharge in India and whether issues with delivery and payments due to the sanctions have been overcome, Bloomberg notes.

The U.S. levied new sanctions against Russia in February on the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and in response to the death of opposition politician Alexey Navalny.

Among the 500 targets of the new sanctions, the U.S. Treasury and State are targeting Sovcomflot and more than a dozen tankers linked to the Russian state-owned firm.  

Stranded cargoes of Sokol, previously headed to India but idled off South Korea and Singapore since the U.S. stepped up sanctions enforcement, started to make their way to China last month, beginning to clear a backlog of more than 10 million barrels of the grade sitting on tankers at sea. 

After the sanctions on Sovcomflot, all Indian refiners are said to be now refusing to take Russian crude transported on Sovcomflot vessels to avoid running afoul of the stricter enforcement of the U.S. sanctions on Russia.

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One of the tankers currently near the Indian coast, Vostochny Prospect, is owned and managed by Sovcomflot, per the Equasis international maritime database cited by Bloomberg.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on April 02 2024 said:
    India the world's third largest economy based on purchasing power parity (PPP) and the third-largest importer of crude has neither recognized Western sanctions against Russia nor has stopped buying Russian crude even for one day. The reason is that Russia has always offered its loyal customers ;like India, China and other Asian customers a small discount estimated at under $4.0 a barrel below international prices.

    Therefore, ant reports that India is reducing or halting its imports of Russian crudes are Western disinformation.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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