"Reasons Unknown": Floating Russian Oil Base Off Greece Abruptly Shifts South 

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, May 04, 2024 - 03:05 PM

Traders and shipping companies have ensured millions of barrels of Russian crude and crude products flow around the world despite European Union sanctions against Moscow for its 'special operation' in Ukraine. One method to ensure the flow has been cargo switching at sea, known by traders as ship-to-ship or STS transfers. 

One of the hottest STS transfer spots for Russian crude and crude products was in Greece's Laconian Gulf, a gulf in the south-eastern Peloponnese. Now, research firm TankerTrackers reports that Russian oil transfers in the area have "completely vacated" the area this week. 

"For reasons unknown, the Laconian Gulf in Greece, used as a transshipment point for Russian oil; was completely vacated of major tankers on the afternoon of 2024-05-01. The STS transfers are now taking place directly south of the gulf," TankerTrackers wrote on X. 

STS Russian transfers from the Laconian Gulf have ended up thousands of miles away in Asia. However, according to the Black Sea Group, some of it ended up at European ports because of Brussels' poor sanction management: 

"68% of the oil was brought to the Laconian Gulf in Greece for transshipment, while the rest was directly exported to the EU ports amid poor sanctions management," researcher Bohdan Ben wrote in a note. 

TankerTrackers pointed out that the STS transfers in the Laconian Gulf have shifted just south. The firm used maritime data from Marine Traffic and satellite imagery data from Kpler.

Bloomberg notes STS transfers of Russian crude could be shifting to the Red Sea: 

There are other signs of change in how Russian oil is moving. One tanker also flipped a cargo of crude onto another vessel in the Red Sea last month. The Panta Rei 1 transfered its cargo onto the Odysseus, which then transported its consignment to India. That's the first ever switch observed in that location in ship tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

What is evident is that, despite Western sanctions on Moscow, Russian crude oil and crude products continue to circulate globally. The puzzling thing here is why the abrupt shift away from the Laconian Gulf region?