Singapore cracks down on tankers as dark fleet grows Ship’s crew

(Bloomberg) –

The number of detained oil and chemical tankers in Singapore has risen sharply since the beginning of last year, highlighting growing concerns about the environmental and safety impact of a growing fleet of aging vessels on key shipping routes.

The city-state has detained 33 ships for failing safety inspections so far this year, according to Tokyo MOU, a regional port inspection organization, the most in the decade to 2019. April saw nine detentions, the most in a month since at least 2010 .

The dramatic spike in failed inspections in Singapore fits a regional trend of rising detentions across Asia since Russia invaded Ukraine early last year. The invasion and subsequent sanctions have led to a rapid expansion of the dark fleet of tankers that sail under radar and ship sanctioned oil to buyers in China, India and elsewhere.

These ships often have substandard insurance and tend to be older than the age at which they would normally be sent for scrap. A recent explosion on a tanker capable of carrying around 700,000 barrels of oil off the coast of Malaysia highlighted the dangers these vessels can pose. Fortunately, the Pablo, built in 1997, was almost empty.

Singapore, a frequent stopover on routes to North Asia, is one of the world’s busiest oil ports. Most of the crude oil from the Middle East and Western Russia is transported through the Straits of Malacca.

The city-state’s Maritime and Port Authority said it resumed physical ship inspections in 2022 when Covid restrictions were eased. The frequency of inspections has increased to ensure safe and reliable operations and to ensure ships comply with all applicable regulations, it said.

According to Tokyo MOU data, 28 ships were detained in Singapore last year, all but two of them as of June. There has been a lull in incarcerations during the pandemic, but in the decade ending in 2019, the annual record was just seven.

Separately, China has also beefed up security checks on older ships calling at its ports in recent weeks, particularly those 15 years old or older.

© 2023 Bloomberg LP

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