Greek shipowners dominate Russian price-cap-compliant oil cargoes over February
Twenty-nine tankers owned by Greek shipowners tracked calling at Russian export ports after February 5
Tankers, including some flagged with EU registries and insured by UK P&I clubs, underscore that a number of shipments are taking place using the cap’s attestation and compliance procedures
GREEK-owned tankers comprised 31% of tankers that called at five key Russian oil export ports in the Black and Baltic seas over February, indicating that oil price-cap compliant cargoes are being shipped from the federation despite a decree that bans exports of cargoes sold under the cap.
Twenty-nine tankers owned by Greek shipowners called at Russian ports after February 5, when European Union, UK and US sanctions on petroleum products were imposed. Sanctions on Russian crude oil exports began on December 5. Another 15 Greece-owned ships called at ports before February 5, so their status was unclear.
Of the tankers that called after February 5, 13 were flagged in Malta, with a further five in Greece, according to data compiled by Lloyd’s List, using Lloyd’s List Intelligence data. Another nine were flagged in Liberia and two with the Marshall Islands, with beneficial owners traced to Greece.
The numbers indicate that despite Russian bans on the sale and export of oil price cap-compliant cargoes, tankers carrying crude, fuel oil, diesel and other refined products are sailing under these arrangements to destinations including India and Türkiye.
The data identified the tankers calling at the port, not the type of oil commodity loaded. Some, but not all, of the Greek-owned tankers checked by Lloyd’s List remain insured with International Group club members, further underscoring that attestation processes and assurances the shipments were compliant with the price caps were in place.
A Russian decree from February 1 banned the supply of oil or oil products to foreign companies if sold at contracts that allow for a maximum price, or cap.
The decree aimed to thwart Western sanctions that prevent charterers, traders, insurers and other providers of maritime services shipping Russian oil to third countries unless the cargo is bought at or below a specified price cap.
The EU, US and UK and other western nations, including Canada and Australia, also banned imports of Russian oil alongside the price cap, which aims to reduce energy commodities revenues to the Russian federation to finance the military activity in Ukraine.
Greek shipowners with oil price-cap compliant cargoes tracked leaving Russian ports in February included George Economou’s TMS Tankers Limited, Thanassis Martinos’ Eastern Mediterranean, George Prokopiou’s Dynacom Tankers and Andreas Martinos’ Minerva Maritime.
US-listed Tsakos Energy Navigation’s product tanker Aegeas (IMO: 9315800) loaded a cargo from St Petersburg on February 15 that was discharged at the Moroccan port of Mohammedia on February 27, according to vessel-tracking data.
While Greece-based beneficial owners accounted for 31% of tankers tracked calling at the five ports over February 1-28, tankers from the so-called dark fleet comprised the bulk of shipments, accounting for 79 ships of the 168 tracked, or 48%.
That is the highest percentage of dark fleet calls since Lloyd’s List began monthly tallies of tanker calls at the five ports of Primorsk, St Petersburg, Ust-Luga, Novorossiysk and Tuapse some nine months ago.
Before the December 5 bans, Greek-owned tankers had a 50%-plus share of the post-invasion oil tanker shipments from these ports, up from an average of 35% before Russian entered Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
Russia-controlled tankers totalled 15% over February. The low number is because the majority of Sovcomflot’s fleet has been diverted to the Pacific seaboard, where direct, short-haul shipments to China are tracked from ports including Nakhodka and Vladivostok. These are not included in the tally.
The average age of the dark-fleet tankers was 18 years.
Lloyd’s List defines a tanker as part of the dark fleet if it is aged 15 years or over, anonymously owned and/or has a corporate structure designed to obfuscate beneficial ownership discovery, solely deployed in sanctioned oil trades, and engaged in one or more of the deceptive shipping practices outlined US State Department guidance issued in May 2020. The figures exclude tankers tracked to government-controlled shipping entities such as Russia’s Sovcomflot, or Iran’s National Iranian Tanker Co, and those already sanctioned. Download our explainer on the different risk profiles of the dark fleet here
There is a fleet of around 350 tankers now solely deployed in shipping Iranian, Venezuelan and Russian oil, representing about 8%-10% of global tanker tonnage for ships more than 20,000 dwt, based on an average of estimates and figures provided by those monitoring sanctioned oil trades
About 40% of the dark fleet can be tracked directly to Russian oil flows, including larger tankers that engage in ship-to-ship transfers in international waters and do not call at Russian ports. These tankers, including very large crude carriers, consolidate Russian cargoes from smaller ships for onward voyages to the Pacific region, mainly China and India.
Panama was the largest flag registry for dark-fleet tonnage that called at the Russian export oil ports over February, accounting for 28% of tankers, measured by deadweight tonnage (24 ships). Liberia flagged 21% of tankers (17), followed by St Kitts and Nevis (11), the Marshall Islands (seven), with Belize, the Cook Islands, Cameroon, Palau and Vietnam registries also represented.