Greek Shippers Worry Shadow Fleet Carrying Sanctioned Oil Poses Risks

ATHENS – As they hosted the world’s biggest shipping exhibition – POSIDONIA – in the Greek capital, the oligarchs whose vessels still rule the waves despite rising challenges said unregulated tankers carrying oil from countries under sanction should be brought under control to protect the coast.

Shipping Minister Christos Stylianides told Reuters at the event that some 850 oil tankers from countries such as Iran and Venezuela, as well as Russia – penalized for the invasion of Ukraine – are transporting the fuel.

Industry and analyst sources not named told the news agency the unregulated ships  pose a big environmental problem as their hidden ownership makes them hard to track for liability and can avoid environmental regulations.


‘I can see some threats about the environment, in particular in areas like the Mediterranean Sea and very close to our mainland and islands,” Stylianides said, adding that it’s “a big problem for the fairness” of international trade.

Shadow tankers have been involved in at least 50 incidents to date, including fires, engine failures, collisions, loss of steerage, and oil spills, German insurer Allianz Commercial said in a report in April.

“For us, no doubt that we are against this type of trade,” Stylianides said.

“We cannot accept this situation so close to our coast,” he added, anxious about a potential spill or leak as well as the competition.

Greece has responded with an advisory effectively banning ship traffic off the coast of the southeastern Peloponnese that the sources said was aimed at deterring ship-to-ship transfers of Russian oil off Greece.

“(A) ship-to-ship transfer is not prohibited. Sometimes it is necessary, it is part of the trade,” Stylianides said. “But given this development of the gray fleet, our concerns remain about a possible accident with major environmental impact,” he added.

Other industry leaders echoed the anxiety at the event during a Tradewinds forum, Christopher Wiernicki, Chairman and CEO of ABS saying there’s concern about the rising risks the vessels bring as they sail the seas.

He said that’s about “old vessels, with poor inspection records, lacking insurance, and riddled with mechanical failures and oil spills,” which operators “simply regard as collateral damage,” and have little incentive to follow regulations.


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