Cosco operates tankers in the dark as sanctions see rates climb to new highs

Cosco operates tankers in the dark as sanctions see rates climb to new highs

Up to one third of the fleet of Cosco Shipping Tanker (Dalian) have switched off their automatic identification system (AIS) transponders in the wake of Washington slapping sanctions on the company two weeks ago, according to ship tracking data carried by Refinitiv Eikon.

The Cosco subsidiary, along with another Chinese tanker firm, Kunlun, were hit by sanctions for transporting Iranian crude, making up to 50 VLCCs “untouchables”, according to Intertanko president Paolo d’Amico, and sparking one of the greatest tanker rate rallies seen this decade, with spot rates tripling to more than $120,000 a day for VLCCs and the booming rates spilling down to other tanker sizes with suezmaxes now commanding in excess of $80,000 a day and aframaxes fixing for around $70,000 a day.

“It’s mind-blowing what geopolitics can do to an otherwise platonic crude oil tanker market,” commented Peter Sand, chief shipping analyst at BIMCO on the soaring tanker rates seen in recent days.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg data has revealed that Chinese oil imports from ship-to-ship transfers have surged in recent weeks as a means to get around the sanctions.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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