Russian oil shipments at sea are shifting away from the Spanish enclave Ship’s crew

(Bloomberg) –

The transfer of Russian crude oil between tankers at sea has shifted away from Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in North Africa, due to increasing pressure from local authorities and European Union restrictions on oil transport.

Ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg shows that no ship-to-ship transfer of Russian Ural planes has been observed in Ceuta since mid-April. Instead, some activity has shifted to the Atlantic Ocean, near Cape Verde, the Canary Islands and the Azores.

Western sanctions on Russian oil have forced the country to seek other markets, primarily in Asia, after invading Ukraine last year. In the meantime, a huge shadow fleet of tankers has emerged to transport Russian crude oil, with increasing numbers of so-called STS transfers taking place in international waters off some locations.

With freight rates increasing for smaller tankers, it makes economic sense to offload crude oil onto larger ships for the eastbound voyage. However, most European countries prohibit companies from facilitating transfers with Russian oil.

In early February, Spanish authorities sent a letter to local shipping companies, reminding them that providing fenders for such transfers were prohibited if they involved or suspected Russian oil, even in international waters.

Since then, activity in Ceuta has declined. From December through early April, a total of eight supertankers conducted transfers near the enclave. A ninth ship, the Scorpius, received a cargo in Ceuta and then proceeded to Cape Verde and the Canary Islands to complete the remaining transfers.

Ceuta STS transfers by supertanker since December
Surname Period Goal
Lauren II Dec-Jan Yingkou, China
Sao Paulo dec Kochi, India
Monica S Jan. Dongjiakou, China
Natalia 7 Jan-Feb qingdao
Catalina 7 February Dongjiakou
Veronica march Yingkou
Anshun II march Dongjiakou
M Sophia March April Yingkou

After the Scorpius, two other supertankers conducted STS transfers with Ural tankers in the Atlantic, although this activity will become increasingly difficult to conduct as hurricane season approaches in the region.

The waters off Kalamata, Greece remain the most active site for the Ural STS movement. The Greek authorities explained that their room for maneuver is limited. Some turnover also occurred near sites like Sohar in Oman and Sungai Linggi in Malaysia.

© 2023 Bloomberg LP

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