Despite the integral role of the maritime shipping industry in global trade, the industry is highly opaque, making it an attractive target for bad actors to enrich themselves including by evading sanctions. New research by Crude Accountability has shed light on the opaque nature of the shipping industry and the exploitation of its loopholes by sanctioned governments and their facilitators.
Based on open-source data, the research The Maritime Shipping Industry: Opaque, Extremely Lucrative, and a Tool of Choice for Sanctioned Governments and their Facilitators tracked oil tanker activity at the Russian Black Sea ports of Novorossiysk, Taman, and Temryuk. The oil tanker tracking revealed that Russian petroleum products continue to be transited to Western ports, despite the sanctions imposed by western nations. The European companies facilitating this activity have not only enriched themselves as a result of these actions, but have also enriched the Russian Federation, a nation that continues to commit war crimes on a massive scale.
The study highlights a number of loopholes in the industry’s regulations such as flags of convenience, offshore terminals, and ship-to-ship transfers that make it harder to track the origins of oil products and their routes.
“I was struck most by the scale of the maritime sanctions evasion industry, and the brazenness of the individuals engaged in it”, says Aidan Kelly, Crude Accountability researcher.“The same playbook utilized by sanctioned regimes in Venezuela and Iran to evade western oil sanctions is being employed by the Russian Federation and the longer the international community waits to place a spotlight on it, the more time we give the industry to evolve and become even more opaque”, adds Kelly.
These instances of alleged sanctions evasion actions underline the importance of accountability in oil and gas infrastructure and especially in the shipping industry. Crude Accountability calls for increased transparency and regulation of the maritime shipping industry to prevent its exploitation by sanctioned governments and their facilitators and for businesses and investors to take accountability for their actions and stop supporting war economies.
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