Tanker giants sprout from nowhere to keep Russian oil moving
Published in News & Features
At a downtown office block in Mumbai, India, packing tape peels off a black door whose handle appears to have been ripped out. A pile of post is strewn on the floor outside. A guy from a neighboring office says the staff moved out a few weeks ago, destination unknown.
Almost 1,200 miles away in Dubai, a small office in a run down industrial estate, offers no clues that it, too, is a small cog in Russia’s vast new petroleum supply chain.
The two locations are listed on an international maritime database as belonging to firms running $2 billion in tanker assets between them. They assembled fleets in under a year that are now delivering millions of barrels of Russian oil across the globe.
The first address is for a firm called Gatik Ship Management in Mumbai. The second is for Fractal Shipping. They’re part of a sprawling network of maritime operations that came to prominence soon after the invasion of Ukraine, helping Russia’s oil exports continue substantially unscathed despite sanctions from the West.
“It is this new breed of tanker market players who have helped Russian oil to continue to flow around the world,” said Rebecca Galanopoulos Jones, senior content analyst at VesselsValue, a firm that tracks the prices of thousands of merchant ships. “The sanctions on Russian oil seem to have had very little impact on overall export levels.”
Europe banned almost all seaborne oil imports from Russia from Dec. 5 and simultaneously joined the Group of Seven industrialized nations in imposing a price cap on the country’s crude sales. That extended to refined fuels on Feb. 5.
Anyone wishing to access key western services — especially insurance — had to provide an attestation that the cargoes they were transporting cost $60 per barrel or less. The cap was set high on purpose — the U.S. wanted already discounted Russian crude to keep flowing — and both upstart shippers are using plenty of western insurance.
About three-quarters of Gatik’s fleet is covered by mutuals within the International Group of Protection and Indemnity Clubs in London, data compiled by Bloomberg show. For Fractal, the proportion is higher still.
Both firms have numerous ships in their fleets covered by one of the International Group’s 13 member organizations, the American Club, whose head office is in New York, according to industry data compiled by Bloomberg.
The American Club’s chief operating officer, Daniel Tadros, confirmed his organization covers ships in both firms’ fleets, adding both have provided the so-called attestations — documented statements confirming that oil purchases are in accordance with the G-7 price cap.
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