Huge U-turn by tanker reveals tensions in Russian oil market

Much of this demand is expected to come from Asia. India’s purchases of Russian oil, in particular, have surged more than 700 percent in the five weeks since the war in Ukraine began, compared to the previous five weeks, according to data from the Russian Tanker Tracking Group.

As shipments to Asia have increased, Europe has shown a desire to scale back purchases of Russian crude, Reid L’Anson, senior commodity economist at Kpler, said in an email.

Tracking the floating oil tankers at sea is important to spotting the new picture for Russia’s oil exports, he said. While it’s not necessarily uncommon to have some tankers with unknown destinations, “given the situation in Russia, tracking those flows will be crucial,” he said. “I’m very interested to see how much Asia fills the gap left by European sourcing,” he added.

Part of the West’s move away from Russian oil has followed mounting public pressure.

When the Minerva Virgo, a 50,000-ton Croatian-flagged tanker transporting Russian petrochemicals, docked in New York last week, environmental group Greenpeace staged a protest in the port, with activists in rubber boats carrying signs reading “Oil Fuels War. ”

(A few days later, a smaller tanker carrying Russian chemicals, the Vinjerac, also bound for New York, changed its destination to “Drifting” a short distance from shore and did not dock.)

In the UK, dockers at Birkenhead Docks in north-west England earlier this month refused to unload a German-flagged tanker. Workers would “under no circumstances unload Russian oil,” a local union leader told Sky News. The UK has banned Russian tankers from British ports, but the order does not apply to ships from other countries transporting Russian oil.

In response to the invasion, major oil companies have announced that they are withdrawing from investments in Russia. Companies like BP, Shell, TotalEnergies and Exxon Mobil have all said they would not sign new oil deals with Russia.

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