Analysts have warned that the risk of an oil leak in the English Channel has increased, due to the fact that Russia relies heavily on tankers older than 23 years old to move supplies around the globe.
Vladimir Putin’s “shadow fleet” of old oil tankers is causing concern in the shipping industry.
Experts fear that the so-called “shadow fleet” is being used by Russia in order to avoid the G7’s price caps on oil exports.
Craig Kennedy of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University said that there was a “real” risk of an oil spillage in European waters.
He called on policymakers to protect the Baltic Sea and English Channel against the increased risk of spills caused by poorly maintained shadow vessels whose number is steadily increasing.
According to Mr Kennedy, most of Russia’s shadow fleet do not have insurance against oil spills. This means that “they should not be allowed to operate”.
According to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence, out of 4,200 oil tanks in operation that are a certain size, only 1,100 were inspected within the last three year period.
These 600 have at least 20-years-old, and 529 don’t know who their insurer is.
Byron McKinney of S&P Global’s Trade Finance and Compliance Solutions said that these figures were the best indicator for a possible oil spill.
According to S&P Global the number of tanker collisions worldwide has increased this year. It went from 15 in 2020 to 24 this year. This is already a five-year record despite only being nine months into the new year.
Ships carrying oil from the Russian port of Ust-Luga pass through the North Sea, and then the English Channel.
Mr McKinney stated that oil spills were more likely to happen when ships docked, but he also added that tankers carrying Russian oil rarely call on British ports.
He said that a spill could happen in the Channel if there was a problem onboard a ship while it was passing through.
The G7 announced in December that the price of Russian oil would be capped at $60 per barrel.
The oil can only be shipped on West’s P&I Club insured ships if it is below the price cap.
In order to avoid this, Russia uses ships that are not insured by the West, but there is growing concern that these tanks do not meet international standards.
According to an analysis by Lloyds List the average age for a dark-fleet tanker is 23.
A shadow tanker carrying 340,000 litres of Russian oil almost ran aground on the Danish Strait in May.
Local shipping chiefs warned that the quality of Russian port-bound tankers had dropped.
A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: “The Maritime and Coastguard Agency maintains the inspection regime of vessels entering UK port in accordance with international procedures.
We also conduct regular drills around the UK in order to ensure that staff and equipment are prepared should an oil spill happen.