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Russian Oil Transfers at Sea Shift Away From Spanish Enclave

Bloomberg
Total Views: 1206
June 28, 2023

(Bloomberg) —

The transfer of Russian crude between tankers at sea has shifted away from Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in North Africa, amid mounting pressure from local authorities and European Union restrictions on transporting the oil.  

No ship-to-ship transfers of Russia’s Urals grade have been observed at Ceuta since mid-April, vessel-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show. Instead, some activity has moved to the Atlantic Ocean, near Cape Verde, the Canary Islands and the Azores. 

Western sanctions on Russian oil have forced the nation to find other markets, mostly in Asia, following its invasion of Ukraine last year. In the meantime, a vast shadow fleet of tankers has emerged to move Russian crude, with an increasing amount of so-called STS transfers occurring in international waters off some locations.

With freight rates for smaller tankers soaring, it has made economic sense to move crude onto larger vessels for the journey east. However, most European countries forbid companies from facilitating the transfers with Russian oil. 

In early February, Spanish authorities sent a letter to local shipping services firms reminding them of a prohibition on providing fenders for such transfers if they involve Russian oil — or the suspicion of it — even in international waters. 

Since then, the activity at Ceuta has wound down. A total of eight supertankers completed transfers near the enclave from December to early April. A ninth, the Scorpius, received a cargo at Ceuta, then moved to Cape Verde and the Canaries to complete the remaining transfers. 

Ceuta STS Transfers Via Supertanker Since December 
NamePeriodDestination
Lauren II            Dec.-Jan.Yingkou, China        
Sao PaoloDec.Kochi, India
Monica SJan.Dongjiakou, China
Natalina 7Jan.-Feb.Qingdao
Catalina 7Feb.Dongjiakou
VeronicaMarchYingkou
Anshun IIMarchDongjiakou
M SophiaMarch-AprilYingkou

After the Scorpius, two more supertankers conducted STS transfers with Urals tankers in Atlantic Ocean, though the activity will be increasingly difficult to carry out with the approach of the region’s hurricane season. 

The waters off Kalamata, Greece remain the most active site for the STS movement of Urals. Greek authorities have said their scope to intervene is limited. Some switching has also occurred near locations such as Sohar in Oman and Sungai Linggi in Malaysia. 

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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