African, Asian and European Sanctions Holes Against Russia

By Marek Grzybowski

In the second quarter of 2023, there were more than 1,200 location manipulation (GNSS) incidents by ship operators worldwide. 63% of all ships circumventing the sanctions were identified as linked to Russia. These are two of the many noteworthy insights from a risk report by Windward, which tracks ship movements using Maritime AI™.

Windward is an analytics firm that tracks how the war in Ukraine and the Black Sea and related sanctions have affected deceptive shipping practices (DSP). Changes in the destinations of ships carrying Russian oil and STS (ship-to-ship) operations are identified. Ship-to-ship oil transfer operations are monitored when one ship came in from Russia. In the second quarter of this year a new rendezvous center between tankers was also detected.

The Windward Risk Insights report is the result of a quarterly analysis of all risks at sea. It provides an overview of any emerging unusual behavior (which appears to have become common practice) in ports and regions prone to illegal activity.

The report analyzes the movements of oil tankers and cargo ships, and monitors those ships that are particularly associated with sanctioned regimes. The degree of compliance with sanctions and the scale of fraudulent shipping practices, such as dark activities and ship-to-ship operations, are being analysed.

In the eye of artificial intelligence
Thanks to the use of artificial intelligence, Windward observers determined that 63% of all ships that were classified as medium and high risk (conducting illegal activities – MG) in the second quarter were identified as linked to Russia.
Only 6.3% of ships associated with one or more sanctioned regimes were found to be officially sanctioned. Countries that are sanctioned outside of Russia include North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and Cuba. Under the control and with the use of artificial intelligence, around 2.3 thousand are tracked. tankers that cooperate with Russia, about 1.9 thousand. bulk carriers and about 190 container ships.
Cheating on illegal operations (DSP – Deceptive Shipping Practices) is widely used to avoid sanctions. These are actions used by criminal operators (ships, cargo, freight forwarders) to avoid detection, circumvent sanctions and regulations through illegal operations.

Flemish hole in EU sanctions
It was no secret to anyone that the LNG terminal in Zeebrugge received gas from Russia. In 2022, a transshipment record was achieved, when 4.3 million m3 of LNG was imported from Russia. The Belgian port became one of the beneficiaries of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
LNG supply in 2022 increased by as much as 70% according to ICIS data. Using the Flemish port of Zeebrugge, Russia can also export LNG all year round, e.g. to China, reported The Brussels Times.
The Flemish explain this activity with a long-term contract. The 20-year contract between the Belgian operator Fluxys and the Russians guarantees that Yamal LNG will be able to supply LNG to China, Japan, South Korea, India and Pakistan also in the winter months. It is explained that it is in winter that the shorter north-eastern route is impossible to overcome due to ice.

AIS and STS under control
In the second quarter of this year Maritime AI™ has identified over 880,000 cases of loss of the AIS signal, of which 0.8% of the incidents were related to sanction evasion.
For over 50,000 STS operations, only 1.7% of tanker-to-ship refueling was considered to be illegal oil transfers. For the inspected over 1.9 thousand. Of the port calls, only 0.9% were at sanctioned terminals, or 2.9% including Russia.

Latin America became in the second quarter of this year. record recipient of direct supplies of Russian oil. In the first quarter of 2023, the average number of flights was 6, and in the second quarter it increased to 13, which means an increase of 116%.
Cooperation with Russia is strongly developed by the Middle East. The second quarter of 2023 is a 50% increase in direct exports of Russian oil to Middle Eastern ports, with a quarterly average of 125 voyages.

Turkish cooperation with Russia
According to the Wall Street Journal, sanctioned Russian cargo ships have called at Turkish ports more than 100 times since May 2022. According to Tan Albayrak, a national security lawyer, this is just one symptom of the wider sanctions environment and Turkey’s unique relationship with Russia
It is no secret that Erdogan’s government has for years pursued a foreign policy that focused on strengthening relations with the countries of the Middle East and Asia. Under the pressure of the deteriorating economic condition of the country, Turkey’s economic dependence on Russia has been growing since 2018. Türkiye has become dependent on Russia in many ways.

With the reduction of investment and technology transfer from the US and the EU, Erdogan’s government changed the directions of cooperation and intensified economic contacts with its closest neighbors from the Arabian Peninsula. China entered the circle of economic relations and cooperation with Russia developed. Ties with Russia were already so developed that Turkey was unable to curb Russian exports and join the program of sanctions imposed on Russia.

– This contributed to the perception of Turkey as a “sanctions-free” jurisdiction, so that its name was mentioned in the US secret-seal document listing countries where sanctions can be circumvented – along with China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Armenia and Uzbekistan, reports Tan Albayrak in The Maritime Executive.

The gray and black fleet is growing
The analysis of the activity of suspicious ships in Q2 clearly shows on the map an increase in the activity of Russian ports and ports on the Black Sea. The activity of suspicious tankers after calling at ports in Russia increased by as much as 75%. At the same time, a 140% increase in suspicious activity in the Black Sea was recorded, which was clearly displayed on the map developed by Windword analysts.
The number of suspicious operations in maritime transport circumventing the sanctions was possible thanks to the increase in the fleet of suspicious ships. In the second quarter of this year, i.e. in just 3 months, the “grey” fleet increased by 15% and in July included over 1,000 vessels, of which over 41.3% are oil tankers. During the same period, the “dark” fleet grew by 18% to around 1,200,000. units of various types, of which over 43.4% are oil tankers.
As you can see, the holes in the sanctions are well used not only by Russian operators, but everyone who deliberately uses leaky law or systems participates in circumventing the sanctions. Because, as you know, there are no sanctions for treaties.