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‘Daredevil’ aframaxes keep Russian oil moving

While most shipping companies have decided to give Russian exports a wide berth as sanctions rain in, combined with the dangerous situation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, which has seen a host of merchant ships come under attack, there are some tanker owners putting profits above all else.

“News of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the incurred risks of loading near a war zone, have nearly catapulted rates all the way to the half-thousand Worldscale mark – 480 was repeated several times basis 80kt. T,” the latest tanker report from brokers BRS, published yesterday, reported.

“Freight rates for Aframax tankers, normally carrying about 70% of Russia’s seaborne exports, are exploding for the few daredevil shipowners willing to undertake the risk of carrying Russian oil from the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea,” a daily markets update from Lorentzen & Co stated today.

Data from shipping platform Sea/ shows 20 aframaxes are currently in Russian national waters (see details below), having arrived after the start of the invasion of Ukraine. Furthermore, another 31 aframaxes are due to arrive in the next week.

Ukrainian port infrastructure is being battered by Russian shelling and will require a massive reconstruction when hostilities finally ease between the two neighbours.

Mariupol, a city of roughly 430,000 people prior to the conflict, sits on the shores of the Azov Sea around the mouth of the Kalmius River. The city has been encircled and bombarded by Russian forces for the past fortnight with significant damage reported at its port.

Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said on Monday that part of the Black Sea port of Olvia, which is under concession to Qatar’s QTerminals, had been hit by a military strike.

Meanwhile, defensive positions are in place at Ukraine’s top port city, Odessa, as locals brace for an imminent Russian assault.

In other news relating to the conflict, Russia has threatened to cut off the Nord Stream 1 gas flow to Europe, while Seoul has followed the EU and US in sanctions against Russian banks and other measures, which could see building slots initially reserved by Russian-linked companies become available at the nation’s top three yards, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, Samsung Heavy Industries and Hyundai Heavy Industries.

“Newbuilding contracts which are worth several billions of dollars that Russian companies have on order at South Korean shipyards are also seeing an uncertain fate,” a note from brokers Affinity suggested.

For all the news on how the invasion of Ukraine is affecting global shipping, check out Splash’s dedicated coverage here.

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.


  1. Good coverage, Sam. As you put it, ‘some tankers owners putting profits above all else’. They have no conscience and the international shipping community of charterers, shippers, seafarers and others should recognize them as such.

    1. What conscience are you talking about? Did anyone stop shipping US products when Americans invaded Iraq? Are you that brainwashed into believing Russian aggression is somehow different from killing Iraqi children without UN approval?

    2. What’s new about the rich elite risking the average person’s life. before profit if the governments were serious they would confiscate the ships off the owners to stop supply.

  2. The obvious riposte is to deny them any access to delivery terminals. The ships’ details are known and they can be tracked if and when they load and are dispatched.

    Perhaps the owners need to be sanctioned.

    1. Wondering if they could be seized/arrested when entering the Bosphorus with the cargo revenues being donated to Ukraine

  3. The names of the tankers involved would seem to indicate, in many cases at least, Russian crews.
    Furthermore, a swift sally from the Bosphorous to Novorossisk would be well away from the areas of conflict.
    Given the rates being paid they should also have little difficulty enticing crews.

  4. The easiest way to stop Russia from exporting oil is to wreak havoc on the terminals used to load onto ships, yes? Wondering how long it will be before some demo team will opt to do this??

    Oh, I know. It’ll be a bloody mess no doubt. But it’ll certainly stop the flow of crude out from the Black Sea. Meanwhile, the politicians will likely keep watching their ‘sanctions’ not materialize into anything in the months ahead. China will buy up all of Russia’s oil that nobody else will take.

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