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Russia Seeks to Dodge U.S. Sanctions With Stealthy Oil Transfers

A Russian tanker has attempted to circumvent U.S. sanctions by surreptitiously transferring its oil cargo to another vessel offshore Singapore, a Bloomberg analysis of vessel-tracking data showed on Monday.

According to tanker-monitoring data reviewed by Bloomberg, the Primorye, owned by now-sanctioned Russian tanker fleet operator Sovcomflot, loaded a cargo of about 1 million barrels of oil at the Russian port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea, and traveled to waters near Singapore in Asia. There, the ship secretly transferred its oil cargo onto another tanker. SCF Primorye switched off its AIS location and destination system when it reached east of Singapore, and is now moving toward the South China Sea in a draft suggesting it is now empty, according to Bloomberg’s analysis.

In February this year, the U.S. Treasury and State targeted Sovcomflot and more than a dozen tankers linked to the Russian state-owned firm in a new wave of sanctions that targeted about 500 entities.

Refiners in India avoided for a few months Sokol shipments and avoided taking delivery of crude loaded on tankers of Sovcomflot, following the ramp-up of U.S. sanctions on Russia.

The latest sanction-busting attempt with cargo switching, with transponders off, suggests the lengths to which Russia and buyers willing to purchase cheap crude could go.

Last week, vessel-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg showed that following a clampdown in Greece, ship-to-ship transfers of Russian oil in the Mediterranean have moved further west in the sea, just off the eastern end of Morocco’s coast on the Mediterranean.

Last month, the Greek Navy held exercises in the Laconian Gulf in southern Greece and effectively banned all ship traffic there. As a result, traders have moved the STS activity to the Moroccan coast, where at least three Aframax tankers, loaded with Urals from Russia’s Baltic port of Primorsk in May, have recently arrived to transfer the Russian flagship crude onto larger vessels, according to the data monitored by Bloomberg.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on June 10 2024 said:
    This has been a standard and highly successful method of evading US sanctions by Russia, Iran and Venezuela for ages.

    And despite unprecedented US sanctions, Russia has been exporting the maximum volumes of crude and petroleum products allowed under the OPEC+'s production cuts namely 8.0 million barrels a day (md) with Iran exporting up to 1.5 mbd and Venezuela also exporting an estimated of 800,000 barrels a day (b/d) or what its oil industry is currently capable of.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

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