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Seaborne trade with Russia drops by 58% since the start of the invasion of Ukraine

Seaborne trade with Russia has dropped by 58% since the invasion of Ukraine began 22 days ago, new data from financial data provider Refinitiv reveals as images emerge of empty shop shelves across many cities in the world’s largest country.

Sanctions are clearly working and the inherent dangers of coming near the war zone – with five merchant ships coming under fire in the war so far – have ensured Russia has been massively cut off from global seaborne trade in recent weeks.

The drop in ship calls is being felt far away from the conflict too. Ports in the Baltic Sea, like St Petersburg, responsible for a third of Russia’s nautical trade, now have 65% fewer ships making port calls, according to calculations by the investment bank UBS. Ports in the Pacific such as Vladivostok have seen volumes slide by 52% since the war started on February 24.

Behavioural data from Israeli maritime artificial intelligence platform Windward clearly indicates a decrease in crude oil tankers calling port in Russia.

Windward data published yesterday shows crude oil carriers departing from Russia are no longer calling port in Europe, Asia, and North America.

The only skyrocketing line is for destinations “unknown” – representing vessels that haven’t arrived at their destination yet (see chart below). This indicates there are still about 46m Russian oil barrels on their way to a destination out of Russia, according to Windward.

“It may have taken some time, but the US energy ban and the European flag ban are definitely coming into effect, causing great confusion for those out on the water,” an update from Windward suggested.

A new report from UK consultancy Drewry predicted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will impact seafarer availability to crew the world’s merchant fleet, particularly for officers where supply has tightened, leading to rising wage inflation and higher vessel operating costs.

In officer terms the combined Russia and Ukraine supply represents around 13% of global supply according to Drewry statistics, while for ratings it is 8%.

Bulk liquid and gas trades are most exposed to the likely drop in Russian and Ukrainian crew availability. This together with rising marine insurance premiums will drive up vessel operating costs, Drewry warned.

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.
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