Aging Shadow Fleet Loaded With Russian Oil Poses Risk

The 26-year-old oil tanker dubbed Turba typically should’ve been melted by now. The vessel has not had a thorough inspection since 2017, per a dedicated database promoting safe shipping.

It further lacks industry-standard insurance and flies the flag of a country with poor oversight of maritime security and safety.

Shadow Fleet
Image for representation purpose only

But instead of being steered onto a beach in India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh for dismantling, the 1997-built oil tanker is reportedly going on fetching heavy fuel at Russia’s St Petersburg port.

The aftermath of the EU’s sanctions on Russia indicates that a huge shadow fleet is transporting Moscow’s oil globally.

Its operation also serves as a reminder that the Group of Seven sanctions on Moscow holds a significant environmental risk.

The concern is that some older vessels — the global fleet is now the oldest in about two decades — may not be inspected and maintained, resulting in a catastrophic incident at sea.

They are an ecological disaster waiting to happen, said Lars Barstad, the CEO of the management unit of Frontline, one of the greatest owners of supertankers.

In usual times, owners start considering demolishing the tankers when they are aged 15 years. By year 20, the ships’ fate — to be sold for scrap — is usually sealed.

Right now, though, shipowners are squeezing a few more years out because there’s money to be made. The sanctions imposed on December 5 are compelling vessels to sail for thousands of miles, boosting demands as well as freight rates.


More than 40 vessels hauling Russia’s oil to India and China between early December, as well as early February lacked insurance from relevant members of the International Group of P&I clubs. Or they lacked a routine safety-management certificate, per data from Equasis, the maritime safety database. Three, including the Turba, did not have a classification that could demonstrate how seaworthy those were.

Some ageing ships are reportedly transferring hazardous cargo on high seas, specifically in international waters off Africa or Greece. Tankers that ideally must have been scrapped by today are still doing transfers of millions of barrels without any proper insurance, per Adi Imsirovic, the director of the Surrey Clean Energy consultancy.

Relevant port authorities scrutinize older ships more closely. The increased expenses, and the lack of customers, would — in normal times — encourage owners to sell them for scrap.

High risk

About half a dozen oil tanker brokers and owners said they didn’t have the means to contact Scoot, which does not, however, appear on a Seychelles’ corporate register.

Approval by one of the members of the International Association of Classification Societies — which the Turba lacks, per Equasis — means an audited international body of surveyors will have checked a vessel to monitor that the hull is sound structurally while its propulsion, steering, and power systems are optimally functional.

The mean age of the tanker fleet is about 12 years, per data derived from Clarkson. Almost one-third of vessels are older than 15 years, and the ranks of aging vessels are forecast to expand in the coming years, mentioned Svein Moxnes Harfjeld, the CEO of an oil tanker firm, DHT Holdings.

Due to the lack of clarity regarding ownership, it’s probably those new operators do not have the same levels of professionalism or experience associated with Russia’s fleet, per Ben Luckock, the co-head of oil trading at Trafigura.

Plan to place nuclear weapons in Belarus: Putin

Russia will be stationing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Vladimir Putin mentioned on Saturday, sending a warning to Nato over its military support for Ukraine and escalating a standoff with the West.

Even though not unexpected Putin said that the move would not be violating nuclear non-proliferation deals. The US has cautiously reacted to Putin’s statement, with a senior official also mentioning that there were zero signs Moscow had planned to utilize its nuclear weapons.

On Sunday, the top security official of Ukraine denounced the Kremlin’s idea to station tactical atomic weapons in Belarus, saying that Russia was taking its ally as a “nuclear hostage.” But Moscow mentioned that it was making the move in response to the West’s increasing military support for Ukraine.

Nato on Sunday criticized Russia for dangerous nuclear rhetoric.

Nato is super vigilant, and we are closely monitoring the situation. It has not seen changes in Russian nuclear posture that could lead to adjusting its own, a Nato spokesperson explained.

Russian reference to Nato’s nuclear sharing has been misleading. Nato allies act with due respect toward international commitments. Russia has reportedly broken its arms control commitments.
EU is ready to respond with further sanctions, EU’s foreign policy chief mentioned on Sunday.

Reference: Mint, Business Standard

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