Spain urges UN to crack down on ship-to-ship oil transfers Ship’s crew


JONATHAN SAUL (Reuters) – Spain has called for tighter scrutiny of oil transfers by tankers at sea as the number of unregulated vessels hit by sanctions increases and the risk of pollution increases, according to a UN agency meeting held this week .

Hundreds of additional “ghost” tankers have joined this opaque parallel trade in recent years as a result of rising Iranian oil exports as well as restrictions imposed on Russian energy sales due to the war in Ukraine.

Related article: Russia’s ghost oil tanker fleet is a time bomb

The number of incidents over the past year, including groundings, collisions and near misses involving these vessels, reached the highest in years, a Reuters investigation revealed.

Spain raised the issue this week before the Legal Committee of the United Nations’ maritime organization, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), tabled a resolution to address “the consequences and concerns” about the increase in such operations, a source with Spain’s transport ministry told Reuters on Friday.

Spain’s Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts have become hubs for shipping activities, including oil transfers, known as Ship-to-Ship (STS) operations.

Madrid, which has already tightened its rules on STS transfers along its coast, has urged flag states to step up verification and enforcement of such activities, the source added.

“We express our readiness to support any international initiative aimed at resolving this issue and to that end we urge initiatives at the international level against such STS operations outside our waters,” the source said.

A paper submitted to the IMO committee by Australia, the United States and Canada says illegal transfers “undermine the rules-based international order”.

The IMO committee said the shadow tankers “posed a real and high risk of accidents,” particularly when involved in STS transfers. The tactics used to disguise ship identities, including turning off AIS ship-tracking transponders, “undermined the spirit of the regulation” as required by the MARPOL shipping convention, minutes of the meeting showed.

(Reporting by Jonathan Saul in London, Emma Pinedo and Belen Carreno in Madrid, Editing by Angus MacSwan, Reuters)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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