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Russia and China behind ‘high-risk’ mid-Atlantic tanker transfer hub

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Emergence of an Atlantic ship-to-ship transfer hub is a case of owners taking big risks for big money. At the core of these operations are five tankers bought by an unknown Chinese entity between April and May now running ships under separate company names all registered to the same address.

AT LEAST five Chinese-owned elderly VLCCs, all bought by the same anonymous beneficial owner in the past three months, are at the centre of a newly established ship-to-ship transfer hub for Russian crude that has evolved in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Questions have been raised regarding the safety and scant regulatory and technical oversight of the high seas logistics network used to consolidate Russia-origin crude cargoes on tankers that sail for China.

Since the beginning of June, Lloyd’s List has tracked at least a dozen tankers involved in transferring or receiving Russian oil, previously loaded at Baltic and sometimes Black Sea ports, around 860 nautical miles west of Portugal’s coast.

These VLCCs and suezmaxes are then tracked sailing for destinations including China, although possible STS transfers may be likely in waters off Singapore or Malaysia.

Gazprom and Lukoil have chartered most of the tankers that loaded at Russian ports, including Primorsk and Ust-Luga, analysis of fixture data shows.

As many as 12 further tankers may also have taken part in these STS operations during the past six weeks but have switched off their Automatic Identification System signal to avoid detection.

There is no suggestion that any sanctions have been breached.

Source : Lloyd’s List

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