Home Technology Unknown Chinese Firm Buys 13 Ships for High-Seas Russian Oil Transfers

Unknown Chinese Firm Buys 13 Ships for High-Seas Russian Oil Transfers

by Atlanta Business Journal
  • An anonymous Chinese firm has spent $376 million on 13 tankers to execute ship-to-ship transfers of Russian crude in the mid-Atlantic.
  • All 13 ships are linked to the same office building in Dalian, China, according to maritime intelligence site Lloyd’s List.
  • The fleet represents the core of a new, high-risk transshipment hub for Russian crude off the west coast of Portugal.

An anonymous Chinese merchant has spent $376 million on 13 tankers to execute ship-to-ship transfers of Russian crude in the mid-Atlantic, data from maritime intelligence site Lloyd’s List shows. 

According to the report, an unknown buyer has acquired five aframax tankers, seven large crude carriers, and one suezmax ship through purchases between Hong Kong and China. The buyer purchased 10 of the ships between May and July, and all 13 are linked to the same office building in Dalian, China. 

The fleet represents the core of a new, high-risk transshipment hub for Russian crude in international waters off the west coast of Portugal.

Because each of the vessels is at least 15 years old, they are likely beyond the charter of most traditional oil companies and came without typical financing, which suggests the mystery Chinese buyer is cash-rich, according to the report. 

The fleet, which shows no signs of breaching any sanctions, demonstrates how Moscow’s war on Ukraine has led to a new, furtive oil market that operates beyond the scope of traditional trade routes — all while remaining compliant with insurance and regulations. 

As early as May, reports emerged of ship-to-ship transfers of Russian crude on the high seas, and“dark” transfers have surged as buyers seek to obscure the origins of supplies. While ship-to-ship transfers are not unusual from small to large tankers during long-haul voyages, they can be risky. Transfers typically occur in sheltered waters to reduce the risk of spills, not in the open ocean.

Meanwhile, traders have attempted to avoid affiliation with Moscow through other means, including moving cargoes marked “destination unknown.”

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