Kathimerini Greece Newsroom
A large number of tankers that previously sailed under European Union flags, such as Cyprus and Malta’s, are leaving those registers as a result of the sanctions on Russian oil transportation.
Sources say that since early October the number of ships on the Cypriot registry has decreased by 21%, while the Maltese registry has lost around 67 vessels. This exit, according to shipbroking sources, concerns the migration of ships to countries that do not apply the US and EU sanctions against Russia. The three countries said to be buying tankers leaving the European Union are China, Turkey and India.
Based on official data so far, the exit of tankers from the Greek registry is very limited and may not even be related to the sanctions on Russia. According to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), the Greek registry numbered 1,833 ships in January this year, of which 449 were tankers. In end-August, the number of tankers flying the Greek flag had decreased to 439, with a corresponding decrease in their total transport capacity.
It remains to be seen what the picture is now, given that the exit accelerated, as mentioned above, in the other registers from early October onward when it became clear how the embargo on Russian oil and refined products would be implemented. The relevant announcement by ELSTAT is not expected before the end of January.
Shipping sources explain that the exit from the European registers increases the so-called global “dark fleet.” This is the set of ships that attempt to get out of the large coordinated registers and pass under the sanctions radar, often changing names and ownership to continue to transport Russian oil and refined products, at very high rates due to the associated risk.
Information, which by its very nature is difficult to cross-check, indicates that most of these ships are passing into Turkish ownership, regardless of the flag they may be flying or their shipowner’s headquarters.
While Russian oil imports to the EU are decreasing dramatically, a new channel for Russian hydrocarbons on the continent operates through Turkey, according to the Finland-based Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).