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Greece Aims to Deter Russian Oil Ship-to-Ship Transfers

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

May 8, 2024

© yriy47 / Adobe Stock

© yriy47 / Adobe Stock

The Greek navy on Wednesday extended an advisory effectively banning ship traffic off the coast of the southeastern Peloponnese that two sources said was aimed at deterring ship-to-ship transfers of Russian oil off Greece.

Greece, in a rare move, over the past weeks has issued two NAVTEX notices for military exercises in the Laconian Gulf area, urging merchant and other vessels to avoid the area. One of them was issued on May 1.

"It was initially expiring on May 9 but was extended today," said a defence ministry official who declined to be named.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, international sanctions have made trading Russian crude and oil products increasingly difficult, prompting traders to seek loopholes to export them, including offshore ship-to-ship transfers.

In recent months, waters around Greece’s southern coast and the Laconian Gulf have been meeting oil transfer points especially for tankers carrying Russian oil onto other vessels.

Vessels are positioned beyond the limit of six nautical miles from the shore to avoid cargo and vessel checks by Greek authorities.

"You cannot perform an inspection on a ship with a foreign flag in international waters. Unless a vessel carries a Greek flag your hands are tied," said a second source with knowledge of the matter.

"The NAVTEX advisory is an indirect way to prevent such activities."

A third government official said that Athens plans to extend maritime advisories for military exercises in that area which could eventually push away STS transfers close to Greek waters.

In April, Reuters reported that four tankers were stuck near the Laconian Gulf after the United States hit the vessels with Iran-related sanctions.

Russia has been grappling with the loss of insurance and other shipping services as Western countries turn the screws on Moscow with financial sanctions.

The European Commission is expected to propose sanctions on oil tankers in the so-called “shadow fleet” that transports Russian oil outside the Group of Seven countries (G7) oil price cap limit, European Union sources told Reuters last month.

(Reuters - Reporting by Renee Maltezou in Athens and Jonathan Saul in London; Additional by reporting Yannis Souliotis; Editing by Jason Neely and Angus MacSwan)