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IMO Adopts Tougher Resolution to Tackle ‘Shadow’ Tanker Fleet

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December 6, 2023

By Jonathan Saul

LONDON, Dec 6 (Reuters) – The United Nations’ shipping agency on Wednesday adopted a resolution targeting illicit shipping practices from the so-called unregulated “shadow fleet” in an effort to clamp down on unsafe activities at sea.

There are hundreds of aging oil tankers that form part of a parallel fleet of vessels transporting oil including for Russia, which has been hit by Western sanctions but also the enforcement of Group of Seven regulation that caps the price of Moscow’s oil exports at $60 with penalties imposed on those that ship above that price. 

Iran, which has also been struggling with separate sanctions in recent years, has also turned to such ships to export its oil, sources have said. 

The resolution, which was adopted at the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) governing assembly session in London, called upon flag states – which register ships – to “adhere to measures which lawfully prohibit or regulate” the transfer of cargoes at sea, known as STS operations.

It also called for ensuring that ships update their operation plans for STS transfers especially if engaged in a mid-ocean transfer with another vessel. 

The resolution also recommended that port states, when they become aware of any ships intentionally taking measures to avoid detection, such as switching off their tracking responders or concealing their actual identity, “should subject such ships to enhanced inspections.”

Iran’s IMO delegation, which sought amendments to the resolution, voiced its concern last week and said the proposals showed a “clear deviation” from the IMO’s remit. 

“It (the resolution) includes controversial concepts and terms that lack precise and absolute definitions acceptable to all member states,” Iran’s delegation said. 

In October, Russia said the IMO was departing from its impartial role due to “external pressure” which it said was impacting the fair treatment of all member countries. 

Russia on Friday failed to win enough votes for re-election to the IMO’s governing council after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had urged countries not to allow Moscow to be part of the UN body’s executive arm. 

(Reporting by Jonathan Saul; editing by David Evans)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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