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Shadow tankers sailing without Danish pilots in tricky waters

Parts of the “shadow fleet” carrying Russian crude were continuing to sail through the notoriously tricky Danish waters between the Baltic and the North Sea, despite a recent collision of a tanker which has now been detained in Denmark, according to reports.

The Danish Maritime Authority confirming the details of a report in the Financial Times that the tankers were now regularly declining the services of pilots as they transit the busy shipping lanes in the Danish Straits.

There were renewed concerns that the shadow tankers were disregarding international regulations and as a result were increasing maritime dangers. There are concerns not only at vessels without a local expert pilot being able to navigate the straits safely, but also whether there would be adequate (or any) insurance in place should there be a serious accident.

The Danish Maritime Authority had expressed concerns about the dangers of vessels traveling in the busy shipping lanes without assistance as long ago as September 2022. These concerns are now being renewed and have reached a higher political level. Part of this is a result of the media coverage of a tanker inbound to the Baltic, which was in ballast, clipping a smaller outbound cargo ship at the beginning of March.

The FT said that, according to the leaked report, at least 20 tankers this year had made the transit without Danish pilots. Citing Kpler, the FT said that the tankers were carrying about 10m barrels of oil. Only three of the tankers were carrying insurance from a recognized Western provider, the report claimed.

While a centuries-old treaty permits “innocent passage” without the requirement for a pilot, many insurers require the use of local pilots in areas such as the Danish Straits.

Last week an opposition leader demanded an investigation after the news of the March 2nd collision leaked into the media this week. A reasonable conclusion was that the Danish government had not wanted the incident to be publicized, and the furore that resulted when the news was leaked might explain why. One politician called for the government to impose a mandatory requirement for the use of pilots. The Danish energy minister said that the government was working with the EU to address the concerns. It had been suggested that Denmark might begin checking insurance and certificates for tankers transiting the straits.

The Danish Maritime Authority confirmed that it is currently detaining the tanker Andromeda Star (IMO 9402471), after the March 2nd collision. The DMA said that an initial inspection revealed that the tanker had all the required certifications, including insurance, although public databases were unclear as to the vessel’s current ownership. A request was filed with the Danish police to investigate the incident, the DMA said.

The tanker suffered minor cracks and was taken to a local Danish shipyard for repairs.

Media reports are saying that the other vessel was a smaller general cargo ship named Peace (IMO 9553983). The vessel appears to be a 16,800 dwt ship registered in Bulgaria which was outbound from Sweden. The vessel reportedly was not damaged and her AIS signal shows she is now in the Mediterranean heading for Alexandria, Egypt.

2009-built, Panama-flagged, 63,294 gt Andromeda Star is owned by an undisclosed interest, with ISM manager reported as Margao Marine Solutions OPC of Goa, India. As of March 21st the vessel was moored at Kattegat, Denmark (arrived March 17th).

2012-built, Bulgaria-flagged, 11,627 gt Peace is owned by Primestatus Shipping LLC care of manager Ribex Maritime Ltd of Bourgas, Bulgaria. It is entered with London Club on behalf of Primestatus Shipping LLC. As of march 20th the vessel was in the Eastern Mediterranean at Alexandria Anchorage (arrived March 20th from Oskarshamm, Sweden).