Source: Aleksei Gorodenkov /
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EU member states have adopted an 11th package of sanctions that confirm plans to ban access to EU ports for ships which engage in ship-to-ship transfers if there is cause to suspect the cargo is of Russian origin.
The latest package has been under discussion since early April and has been mired in political horse trading as states sought to remove contentious details and avoid diplomatic repercussions.
Detailed guidance on exactly how vessels will be targeted and potentially banned from using port facilities in the EU is yet to be revealed, however, leaving ambiguities and grey areas that urgently require clarity.
So what do we know?
The agreed text promises to ban access to EU ports for ships which engage in ship-to-ship (STS) transfers, if there is cause to suspect the cargo of oil is of Russian origin.
Risk factors including suspicious gaps in Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals and STS transfers have been detailed in the new sanctions, but the final guidance to coastal states responsible for enforcing the measures is yet to be written.
Member states will be required to actively monitor potentially suspicious shipments originating from Russia although no agreement has yet been reached on the length of potential port bans for ships identified by a coastal state to have violated the new measures.
The exact text of the package, published on June 23, relating to Russian seaborne oil trade is as follows:
When will there be clarity on the details and definitions of these new measures?
Following the now well-established process of EU sanctions packages, the final text of the measures was published shortly after the political agreement was reached, but officials have indicated that the detailed “FAQ guidance” that sets out specific criteria for member states could be up to two weeks away.
This will leave a significant gap where member states are simultaneously required to monitor suspicious activity but have no guidance on how to apply the new requirements.
Lloyd’s List understands that the enforcement of the rules will be made at the discretion of individual member states and the text will include a grace period of about 30 days.
What are the legal experts saying?
Sanctions lawyers approached by Lloyd’s List have questioned how the proposed system would work in practice.
For the EU port ban relating to deceptive shipping practices to be workable, the EU will need to provide a definition of “deceptive shipping practices”, which the individual member states can then apply to identify ships to be banned from the EU ports.
How the commission chooses to word the new restrictions is going to prove pivotal in terms of how the industry responds and how member states enforce the attempts to cut off purported circumvention of the existing sanctions.
Dark fleet monitoring
Stakeholders will therefore need fast, accurate and reliable information on vessels that are displaying the characteristics of illicit activity in anticipation of these new rules coming into force.
Based on years of extensive market experience and analysis of large data sets available through Lloyd’s List Intelligence, our experts have developed a methodology to help identify the ‘dark fleet’ of anonymously owned, elderly tankers that have been drawn to the high-risk but high-rewards stakes of sanctions circumventing oil trades.
The methodology is as follows:
The 450+ vessels identified by this methodology is now available as a watchlist on Seasearcher Advanced Risk & Compliance.
The AI-driven service that flags all the compliance risks that matter, from high-risk vessel port callings, AIS gaps and probable STS transfers, offers the complete view of sanctioned and illicit maritime activity, that was previously unattainable.