Latest warnings from US could be impacting Russian oil flows

Late last year the US took a tougher line on Russian oil exports, saying that simple reliance by carriers on “attestations” while possibly looking the other way, despite suspicions that some form of price cap avoidance was going on, would not be enough to avoid potential US sanctions.

Bloomberg has reported (with a list of ships) that there were growing signs that Russia’s oil flows might be facing disruption as a result.

Over the past month or so, 14 tankers that had been carrying Russian oil to India had either idled, turned round, or switched off their AIS.

The 14 carriers identified by Bloomberg had a total of 11m barrels of oil on board and all were supposed to go to India. However, the Indian government, which has been treading a fine neutralist line between Russia and the US, said that it had cut Russian imports because the prices weren’t cheap enough. There had been rumours of problems with payment relating to choice of currency for the exchange, but New Delhi denied this. The majority are the Sokol grade exported from the east of Russia, but some flagship Urals cargo (which remain cheaper than western oil barrels) are being held up too.

The actions of the US Treasury late last year took place against signs that Russia was increasingly using mystery traders and a huge fleet of ships with opaque ownership structures, plus non-standard insurance to work they way around the G7 price cap, which aimed to reduce the inflows to the Russian Treasury while not reducing the outflows of oil to western economies.

Bloomberg said that some of the 14 ships appeared to have gone out of signal, meaning they might simply be delivering cargo in secret. However, the agency said that it had been relatively unusual to see tankers involved in the Russian oil trade do this since the war in Ukraine began.

NameFlagWhat happened?GradeSovcomflot Tanker?
Bay Demetra (IMO 9408190)LiberiaStopped sending signals in the Indian Ocean around end of DecemberUralsNo
Jaguar (IMO 9293002 ?)Gabon ?Drifting west of Philippines since Dec. 29SokolNo
Krymsk (IMO 9270529)LiberiaPreviously headed to India; Now showing destination of Qinzhou, China, ETA Jan 13thSokolYes
Lefkada (IMO 9311531)GabonAnchored off New Mangalore port for a week before dischargingUralsNo
Liteyny Prospect (IMO 9256078)LiberiaPreviously headed to India, now at Singapore Anchorage, no destination namedSokolYes
Nanda Devi (IMO 9274434)GabonStopped sending signals in the Indian Ocean around the end of December, left Primorsk on Nov 26thUralsNo
Nellis (IMO 9322267)LiberiaPreviously headed to India, now off Riau archipelago, Indonesia, showing destination of Qingdao in China, ETA Jan 16thSokolNo
NS Antarctic (IMO 9413559)LiberiaLast seen on Dec. 28 leaving the waters off South Korea where it had taken on a cargo of Sokol crudeSokolYes
NS Century (IMO 9306782)LiberiaAs of Jan 6th, entering Malacca Strait, awaiting orders, Left Korea on Oct 31stSokolYes
NS Commander (IMO 9306794)LiberiaPreviously headed to India, now at Singapore Anchorage, no listed destinationSokolYes
NS Lion (IMO 9339313)LiberiaIdling off the South Korean port of Yeosu since January 2ndSokolYes
Sai Baba (IMO 9321691)GabonIdling about 200 kilometres from India’s western coast since December 28th, left Ust-Luga on December 1st 2023.UralsNo
Sakhalin Island (IMO 9249128)PanamaPreviously headed to India, now showing destination of Qinzhou, China, ETA Jan 15th. Left Yeosu, Korea on November 30th.SokolYes
Vostochny Prospect (IMO 9866392)RussiaDrifting near SingaporeSokolYes

Readers might recall that the Sai baba (IMO 9321691) cropped up in the news only last week, after being attacked by Houthi drones. 2006-built, Gabon-flagged, 81,409 gt Sai Baba is owned and managed by Paradise Shipping & Marine Inc of Majuro, Marshall Islands. ISM manager is Ark Seakonnect Shipmanagement of Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.

At least one Indian refiner had to buy Abu Dhabi’s Murban crude to replace disrupted Russian imports. Many Sovcomflot tankers were still heading to India without interruption, including nine loaded with Urals.