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Barrels of Russian oil switched off the coast of Greece to avoid sanctions – Bloomberg

Thursday, 23 February 2023, 16:27

Millions of barrels of Russian crude and fuels have been switched between tankers just a few miles off the coast of Greece, one of a series of workarounds that traders have used to overcome European Union sanctions against Moscow.

Source: Bloomberg

At least 23 million barrels of Russian crude and additional volumes of refined fuels have been transferred from one tanker to another in the Bay of Lakonikos since the start of this year, according to tanker tracking by Bloomberg.


Greek authorities say their scope to intervene is limited because the activity is happening outside of a six-mile limit to the country’s territorial waters in the area.

Bloomberg states that traders and shipping companies have found a multitude of ways to ensure Russian oil can flow, and Greece is just the latest example. 

There has been similar activity near Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in north Africa. A vast shadow fleet of tankers has also sprung up to help the country overcome sanctions.


The cargo switching at sea – known by traders as ship-to-ship, or STS, transfer – requires several key services in order to take place safely. European Union firms are only allowed to provide those services if the cargo on board is purchased at or below a Group of Seven price cap. 

Once the cargoes are switched, the receiving tankers will then ferry the oil thousands of miles to buyers in Asia.

Many of the vessels involved are old and their insurance status is unclear. The average age of the tankers involved in the crude transfers off Greece is 18 years.

Ship-to-ship transfers are not inherently risky, but they do involve two vessels floating about in the sea pumping a potentially polluting cargo from one to the other.

The EU’s rules state that companies should carry out due diligence, as well as check and collect the attestations proving that oil cargoes are purchased under the price cap. Authorities should also carry out checks and controls on companies.

Still, the penalty for non-compliance is light, offering a limited disincentive for owners and companies to not help move Russian cargoes.

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