Tankers wishing to skirt the sanctions rules for petroleum transport are migrating to registry in Gabon, a country in West Africa.
Insurers and P&I companies are reporting great concern, because Gabon does not exert any control over regulatory and technical matters.
If accidents occur, there are fewer ways to enforce damage claims.
Ships in the gray tanker trade often experience issues docking at ports, and have to rely on ship-to-ship transfers at sea, which are highly dangerous. It’s hard to track shadow tankers, because they may turn off AIS when they near a banned area.
About 1000 tankers. have worked in the shadow fleet. It has grown fast in the last year. Currently BRS shows about 758 tankers, up from 731 in the previous month.
The size of the shadow fleet is a good indicator of how much oil trade is evading the sanctions instituted due to the Ukraine war, as well as trade with Iran.
This article is very interesting, revealing many aspects of the international trade in oil. The shadow market for oil from Russia is growing, but there’s probably a limit for it. Some tanker owners and operators will be comfortable with the idea of not using their AIS, and not using the major international P&I clubs and insurance firms. They may use older ships, which are more prone to risk, and are less efficient. They may resort to ship-to-ship transfers, since many large tankers cannot enter ports that are available to them for the shadow shipments. These transfers are inherently riskier, both from accident and pollution standpoints, and will probably lead to accidents.
So Russia may be able to move petroleum, but there may be less cash flow for Russia, and there may be a reduction in overall trade with Russia. These outcomes are what sanctions are trying to create.
This interesting article shows how CargoMetrics is using data on ship lading, IoT readings, and vessel tracking to determine the amount of trade to and from China right now. the Coronavirus problem in China has essentially caused ocean commerce to and from China to plummet since Chinese New Year (CNY).
Bulk shipments such as iron ore and coal have dropped over 40% according to the article. Container shipments out of China have also dropped, probably due to the disruption of work schedules at Chinese manufacturers. There are also issues involving quarantine of ships and cargos due to the virus. The article is especially good when it uses graphs to show the changes.
Of course, this is a great promotion for Cargometrics’ capabilities. I think one would have to look closer to discover how well Cargometrics’s data truly represents the entire range of activity, but the trends shown are certainly marked.
One very interesting fact the article gives is that petroleum imports have not dropped yet; they are up by a considerable amount. This may be due, so they say, to the longer transit times. The ships may have to lie to near Chinese ports when they cannot unload due to the quarantines or port handling issues. The other shoe may yet fall even in the tanker business.