Russia’s Huge Oil Tanker Fleet Struggles To Find Buyer Destinations

Several Russia-owned tankers have been idle at sea for more than a week along European and North American coasts as countries have either banned imports of Russian oil or Russian vessels docking at their ports, all this while many traders and buyers refuse to deal with Russian crude.

As many as nine mid-sized vessels, Aframaxes, owned by Russian state tanker fleet operator Sovcomflot have been idle around North America and Europe for over a week, while a typical idle time for a tanker is a day or two, Bloomberg reported on Friday, quoting ship-tracking data it has compiled.

Many Western countries and companies are not risking touching Russia-linked crude shipped by Sovcomflot, which is majority held by the Russian government.

Sovcomflot, with a total fleet of 110 tankers, owns 52 Aframaxes, which makes it the world’s largest owner of those type of vessels, according to data from Clarksons Research Services cited by Bloomberg.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, several countries banned Russian ships from their ports and waters. Canada and the UK were the first. On March 1, Canada prohibited Russian ships and fishing vessels from entering Canadian ports and internal waters. The UK banned on the same day from it ports any vessels “owned or operated by anyone connected to Russia” and said that authorities would also gain new powers to detain Russian vessels.

Two days after the Canadian ban, two Sovcomflot-owned oil tankers rerouted from their destinations in Canada.

In the UK, port workers at a terminal on the River Mersey, from where oil is pumped to Stanlow Oil Refinery, refused last week to unload Russian oil from a Germany-flagged ship.

While Sovcomflot’s tankers in the Pacific do not appear to be idling like the ones near Europe or North America, the problem for the Russian tanker owner could become much worse from now on, considering that a growing number of traders and buyers in Europe will likely be shunning Russia-related crude due to “self-sanctioning” and reputational risks.


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