Unknown Merchant From China Spends $376 Million To Buy 13 Cargo Vessels

An unknown China-based merchant has reportedly spent about $376 million to purchase 13 tankers to enable ship-to-ship transfers of Russia’s crude in the waters of the mid-Atlantic, data shared by a maritime intelligence site named Lloyd’s List highlights.

The report mentions that an unknown Chinese buyer has reportedly acquired five Aframax tankers, seven big crude carriers, and a Suezmax vessel via purchases between China and Hong Kong. The buyer purchased ten ships from May to July, and 13 are linked to the same office building based in Dalian in China.

The fleet represents the core of a new, high-risk transhipment centre for Russia’s crude in the international waters off Portugal’s west coast.

Russian Oil Transfers
Image for representation purpose only

As each vessel is at least 15 years old, they’re likely beyond the charter of most traditional oil firms and came without conventional financing, suggests the mystery Chinese buyer is cash-rich, per the report.

The fleet, which reflects no signs of breaching sanctions, demonstrates how the war on Ukraine has resulted in a new, furtive oil market operating beyond traditional trade routes — while being compliant with regulations and insurance.

As early as May 2022, reports emerged of ship-to-ship transfers of Russian crude on the high seas, and “dark” transfers have increased as aspiring buyers desire to obscure the origins of supplies. Even though ship-to-ship transfers are not rare, they could be risky. Transfers generally take place in sheltered waters to lower the risks of spills, not in the open ocean.

Meanwhile, traders have attempted to avoid affiliation with Moscow via other means, including transporting any cargo marked as “destination unknown.”

References: Markets Insider, Business Insider India

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