Russia assembles a 'shadow fleet' of more than 100 oil tankers as Putin tries to bust western sanctions, report says

  • Russia has a "shadow fleet" of oil tankers to bypass western sanctions, the Financial Times reported.
  • Shipping brokers and analysts estimate that Moscow added 100-plus ships to the fleet, per the FT.
  • The EU has agreed on a $60 a barrel price cap on Russian oil after Poland wanted it set at just $30.

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Russia has assembled a "shadow fleet" of more than 100 oil tankers in a bid to bust western sanctions imposed following Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the Financial Times reported.

Shipping brokers and analysts told the newspaper they estimated Moscow has quietly amassed more tankers this year.

"We've seen quite a number of sales to unnamed buyers in recent months, and a few weeks after the sale many of these tankers pop up in Russia to take their first load of crude," Craig Kennedy, a Russian oil expert at Harvard's Davis Center who has been tracking the ships, told the FT. 

Rystad, an energy consultancy company, said Russia amassed another 103 tankers to add to its fleet this year through purchases and the reallocation of ships servicing Iran and Venezuela.

Russia assembled what the industry described as the "shadow fleet" in a bid to counter new sanctions.

The EU imposed a ban on Russia's seaborne imports, which takes effect on Monday, and reached a deal to cap Russian crude at $60 a barrel after Poland tried to have it set at just $30. The cap aims to let India and China buy the oil but stop Moscow from making big profits on it.

However, the Kremlin has said it would not sell oil to countries enforcing the cap, potentially strengthening its relationships with countries more sympathetic to Putin including India, China, and Turkey.

Anoop Singh, head of tanker research at Braemar, told the Financial Times that the new tankers, bought anonymously, are generally 12 to 15 years old and would be expected to be scrapped in the next few years. "These are buyers that we, as longstanding brokers, are not familiar with. We are confident that the majority of these vessels are destined for Russia," he said.

Analysts estimate a shortfall as Russia still needs more tankers to maintain its export levels, according to the report. Singh said Braemer expects exports to fall by between 700,000 and 1.5 million barrels a day, while Rystad estimates 200,000 barrels.

Rystad analyst Viktor Kurilov told the newspaper: "Russia needs more than 240 tankers to keep its current exports flowing."

A Kremlin spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment by Insider.