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For years, ships carrying sanctioned Iranian oil have turned off their radio signals in hopes of avoiding detection by the United States. Now Russian tankers are using the same tactic, according to ship tracker Windward.

Although not banned by most countries, Russian oil and gas exports have come under scrutiny from Western governments following the Kremlin’s decision to invade the Ukraine on February 24 and subsequent sanctions against major banks and businessmen in Moscow.

Israel-based Windward said it saw an increase in the number of Russian-affiliated tankers sinking to 33 in the last week of March, from around 14 on a weekly average in 2021, including some linked to shipments to the Assad regime in Syria.

The growing number of sinking ships carrying Russian oil stems from the fact that most major shipping operators and major oil companies now shun Russian oil and gas.

Most of those exports are now carried by Russian tankers, which face bans in countries like the UK and US and struggle to find insurance. At least a dozen tankers carrying Russian crude have been temporarily seized or delayed at European ports by customs authorities due to sanctions-related issues.

Tankers carrying Iranian oil began turning off their radio signals after the West imposed restrictions in 2012 to crack down on Tehran over its nuclear program and then when the United States reimposed those restrictions in 2018.

A map provided by Windward shows that the largest concentration of sinking Russian tankers are in the Azov and Black Seas, the Caspian Sea and the Siberian port of Vladivostok, the main departure points for Russian oil exports to other countries. other countries in Asia and Europe. .

Many other areas where they darken are close to some of Moscow’s energy customers. They include the eastern Mediterranean, where Iran and Russia supply fuel to their Syrian ally, and the port of Qingdao in northern China, the site of a huge refinery owned by state-owned China Petroleum. & Chemical Corp.

But ships connected to Russia have also died out in places where the country doesn’t typically sell its crude: near countries like the Maldives, the United Arab Emirates, waters outside Recife in Brazil, and the African nation. of the East that is Namibia, according to Windward.

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