January 28, 2023

Taylor Daily Press

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Russian oil tankers mysteriously disappear on the high seas: what’s going on?

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, several Russian oil tankers have disappeared from the map systems. They shut down their tracking systems to cover their tracks. This way, despite international sanctions and boycotts, they can still move their cargo.

The US embargo and the boycott of many other countries made it difficult for Russian oil to find buyers in the market – at least in the West. But Russian tankers may have found a way to dump their cargo anyway: They travel invisibly.

The practice is simple: they turn off the transponder and disappear from the international interrogation systems. This suspicious act is seen as a way around the sanctions.

Since the beginning of the war, this activity has increased by 600 percent among Russian tankers. This is data from research firm Windward, which tracks ships using artificial intelligence, and where CNN about the message. For example, in the week of March 12, there were 33 cases of this “occult” activity, an increase of 236 percent over the weekly average over the past 12 months.

Do they find buyers?

Russian oil is hated in the whole West, although there is no official ban on it in Europe. But the use of Russian oil on the market is seen as a disgrace.

According to estimates by research firm Rystad Energy, the equivalent of 1.2 to 1.5 million barrels per day has disappeared from radar since the start of the war. A particularly high number, especially given that Russia exports 4-5 million barrels per day. Nobody is really fooled this way. But this does not seem to prevent some from doing business with Russia.

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Who is actually buying Russian oil? According to Rystad, the destinations for this oil, in general, are becoming increasingly unclear. But many analysts point the finger at Asia, Especially India and China† Take both superpowers Not a very sharp point Concerning the war in Ukraine, continue their economic relations with Russia.

The two countries are in the midst of a balancing act: they should not give the impression that they are helping Moscow evade Western sanctions. China and India have a lot to lose by offending the West, but both countries are clearly keen on cheap fossil fuels, which provide a temporary solution for Russia.

“floating storage”

Another theory, put forward by Michael Tran, energy specialist at RBC Capital Markets, is that “traders can buy Russian oil and store barrels, including through ‘floating storage’ on tankers that remain at sea.” This way they keep reserves on hand.

In the end, it is not 100% certain where this oil goes. But this practice (which has already been observed with Iranian or Venezuelan ships) worries the authorities. For example, the United States has indicated that it is working on other methods of tracking ships that do not rely on the main transponder system.