ATHENS – Moving to avoid United States sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, three of Greece’s top shipping firms said they will no longer transport Russian oil, although the European Union had exempted those supplies from penalties.
Greek shippers Minerva Marine, Thenamaris and TMS Tankers have stopped transporting Russia oil in recent weeks, four traders in the industry not named told Reuters, which reported it exclusively, citing shipping data confirmation.
Thenamaris said it doesn’t comment on commercial matters. Minerva Marine and TMS Tankers didn’t respond to requests for comment. All three were making big profits carrying the Russian oil in the face of criticism.
All three companies turned down requests for vessels for Russian crude loading in November and later, said the traders, who previously collaborated with the three firms in their business, the news agency said.
They had been shipping Russian oil for decades and continued to do so when most other Western companies quit running the routes to avoid rising sanction risks and the imposition of the price cap, said Reuters.
The started backing away in September and October, the report said and their departure was a temporary setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin with the invasion in its second year and Russian forces taking losses on battlefields.
Russian oil trade has brought record revenues over the past year to the shippers who took the risk and stayed in the business and the Greek shippers stayed with it although Greece had denounced the invasion and backed sanctions.
Freight rates for Russian oil transportation jumped to as high as $15 million per tanker voyage from Baltic ports to India last winter as shippers charged high rates because of the risk, the report added.
The three Greek companies operate more than 100 oil tankers which handle almost all the oil exports from Russia’s European ports of Primorsk, Ust-Luga and Novorossiisk of some 10 million tons a month or 2.4 million barrels per day.
They also operate a fleet of smaller tankers that transport fuel.
“The dark fleet might not be enough to transport all of Russian oil,” one of the traders involved in Russian oil shipping said, referring to the emergence of ships carrying from sanctions-hit Russia and Iran without Western insurance.
In September, the site Foreign Policy said that Greece, “The world’s largest ship-owning nation is profiting from the sale of aging vessels, while enabling Moscow’s sanctions evasion,” as well as carrying Russian oil.
According to the Institute of International Finance’s chief economist, Robin Brooks, Greek ships currently account for almost 50 percent of tanker capacity out of Russian ports, up from 33 percent before the invasion.
Companies based in countries with price caps on Russian oil are allowed to ship oil if it is priced below the cap. In Russia’s crucial Baltic Sea and Black Sea ports, seven Greek companies have collectively shipped 50 percent more Russian oil than Russia’s state-owned Sovcomflot, the Wall Street Journal reported then.
Post-invasion sales of ships has brought another bonanza for the Greek oligarchs, including the Aframax tanker Seatrust which Thenamaris sold for a reported $35 million, three time what it paid eight years earlier, said Foreign Policy.
Another Greek firm had sold its four oldest crude carriers for a total of $140 million, causing a shipping executive to observe to an industry publication that, “There has never been a tanker market like this.”