Tankers get stuck in Black sea amid oil embargo, price cap

On Monday, the number of tankers waiting to pass through the Strait on the way to the Mediterranean fell to 13 on Monday from 17 a day earlier, according to Tribeca Shipping Agency


Issac John

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Oil tankers wait at anchorage in the Black Sea off Kilyos near Istanbul. — Reuters
Oil tankers wait at anchorage in the Black Sea off Kilyos near Istanbul. — Reuters

Published: Sun 11 Dec 2022, 4:08 PM

Last updated: Mon 12 Dec 2022, 5:33 PM

The European Union embargo on Russia’s oil and an international cap on the price of its crude have disrupted the maritime transport sector, creating a bottleneck in Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait.

A Turkish measure that requires vessels to provide proof of insurance covering the duration of their transit through the Bosphorus Strait has caused shipping delays.

As of Friday, 20 oil tankers travelling south from the Black Sea were waiting to cross the strait into the Sea of Marmara, according to a report from Istanbul-based Tribeca Shipping Agency.

On Monday, the number of tankers waiting to pass through the Strait on the way to the Mediterranean fell to 13 on Monday from 17 a day earlier, the agency said, showing an easing of the recent build-up in traffic. Turkey’s maritime authority said on Sunday that four tankers, carrying some 475,000 tonnes of oil, had provided the necessary insurance letters according to regulations and would cross the Istanbul Strait on December 12.

Shipping industry sources said more tankers are waiting to cross southbound from the Sea of Marmara through the Dardanelles strait into the Mediterranean.

The EU enforced an embargo last week on Russian crude shipments in retaliation for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The week also saw the start of a $60 cap on a barrel of Russian crude, agreed by Western nations. The cap bars ship owners carrying Russian oil from accessing insurance and other services from European providers unless the oil is sold for $60 a barrel or less.

In light of the cap, Turkish maritime authorities are concerned about the risk of accidents or oil spills involving uninsured vessels, and are preventing ships from passing through Turkish waters unless they can provide additional guarantees that their transit is covered. This is slowing oil tankers passage through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits and onto international markets, according to oil market analysts.

They warned that a sustained hold-up could become a problem for the oil market if left unresolved although currently it is not causing any major disruption to global oil supply and thus prices.

Jorge Leon, senior vice-president for oil market analysis at Rystad Energy said this is a very popular route around the world for global trade and specifically for crude.

Countries including Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan use the Turkish straits to get their oil to world oil markets.

According to market sources, Russia has assembled a “shadow fleet” of more than 100 vessels seeking to circumnavigate the Western sanctions regime. These ships are reportedly using non-Western insurers and selling oil at higher prices to countries that have not subscribed to the new sanctions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday warned that Russia could reduce crude production in response to the price limit.

“Moscow is already working on circumventing the ban on insurance by providing its own insurance to potential clients through its state-controlled Russian National Reinsurance Company,” noted Edoardo Campanella, analyst at UniCredit Bank.

Russia, meanwhile, has welcomed India's decision to not support the price cap on Russian oil announced by the G7 countries and their allies. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak made the statement during his meeting with India's Ambassador to Russia, Pavan Kapoor.

A new survey from Argus showed on Friday that Opec+ production fell to 38.29 million bpd last month—1.81 million barrels per day short of its reduced quota.

The 19 Opec+ members subject to the quota produced 310,000bpd fewer barrels in November when compared to the month prior. But that’s still 1.81 million barrels per day short of its quota for November. November’s quota was a reduction of two million barrels per day off October levels, although it was understood at the time that the group might not be able to reach even that reduced target.

The biggest laggards among the broader Opec+ group now, according to Argus, are Russia, producing 670,000bpd under target; Nigeria, producing 530,000bpd under target, Angola, producing 350,000bpd under target, and Malaysia, producing 170,000 under target.

— issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com

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