Russia’s Oil Tanker Ghost Fleet Is A Time Bomb

By James Stavridis (Bloomberg) Most people focus on the land and air aspects of the war in Ukraine, naturally enough — they are vivid and constantly being recorded and broadcast across the world’s screens. But there are significant maritime activities occurring as well, from active combat (including the sinking of the Russian Black Sea flagship, the Moskva, last April) to commercial shipping of grains under a complex trading agreement brokered between Russia and Ukraine.

Another watery part of the war, occurring on oceans around the world, is the smuggling of Russian oil, heavily sanctioned in the West, in so-called shadow tankers. The ships operate without transponders — thus avoiding detection and tracking — and the insurance, regulation and national oversight required of legitimate commercial vessels. A good example is a 26-year-old tanker called the Turba, which hasn’t had a full inspection since 2017 but has been reported collecting heavy oil at St. Petersburg.

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