ATHENS – As they kicked off their world’s largest exhibit for their sector, Greece’s shipping oligarchs are griping about European Union sanctions they said will keep them from moving Russian energy over the invasion of Ukraine.
The tycoons had gotten the New Democracy government to initially block sanctions on shipping so their vessels could keep profiting from transporting Russian oil although Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky said it was “blood money.”
The EU has now passed tougher measures – with some exemptions after Hungary’s pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he would veto an outright ban on getting Russian oil.
That has led to confusion over what ships can carry, especially after Iran seized two Greek tankers in retaliation for Greece helping the United States confiscate Iranian oil off a vessel in Greek waters.
Shipowners are struggling to know what trades are still legal, leading Greek shipowner George Procopiou said. “Sanctions have never worked,” he told a Capital Link shipping conference in Athens, said Reuters.
“At least my recommendation … is to be clear on what is allowed and what is not because we are living in a gray area all the time, what is legal, what is illegal, and we see banks and insurance becoming more strict than the regulations are and that creates a lot of misunderstandings,” he said.
For now, the EU – which relies on Russia for up to 40 percent of its energy and is still buying it – said it would to stop buying all Russian crude oil delivered by sea, two-thirds of all EU imports of Russian crude, from early December, and will ban all Russian refined products two months later.
“I think European leaders are making a mistake,” Evangelos Marinakis, Chairman of shipping group Capital Maritime, told the conference.
“Instead of penalizing Russia, we’re penalizing ourselves,” he also said.