Russia seems to have found a new way to get its oil on the market with Western sanctions looming for Moscow.
A cargo of about 700,000 barrels of Russian oil was delivered to Egypt’s El Hamra oil terminal on the Mediterranean coast early July 24. A few hours later, another ship retrieved a shipment from port, which may include some or all of the Russian barrels — according to ship tracking data monitored by Bloomberg.
The unusual move makes the cargo’s final destination more difficult to track, contributing to a trend of Russian oil shipments becoming increasingly obscured since European buyers began shunning them after the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
El Hamra, operated by Egypt’s Western Desert Operating Petroleum Co., has six storage tanks with a capacity of 1.5 mbbl of crude oil, and a single dock for loading and unloading. The terminal was built to handle crude oil produced in Egypt’s western desert, creating opportunities to blend the Russian barrels with local volumes.
The owner of the El Hamra terminal did not respond to multiple telephone attempts to contact.
A few hours after the first tanker – the Crested – left El Hamra, another, the Chris, arrived. It had been at the terminal for several days, but has moved from the berth to allow Crested to dock, according to the tracking data.
When Chris finally left El Hamra on July 28, the cargo tanks were nearly full, tracking records show. It is now moored at the Ras Shukheir oil terminal on Egypt’s Red Sea coast. This terminal also offers opportunities to blend Russian crude oil with Egyptian barrels.
Egypt is already used by Russia as a transit route for fuel oil. It is unclear whether El Hamra is a one-off or will become a more used port for Russian oil flows.
Previously, tankers carrying Russian crude have performed ship-to-ship freight transfers for the Spanish North African city of Ceuta and, more recently, in the mid-Atlantic. That is an unusual location for such a difficult operation that is normally performed in sheltered nearshore locations.
In June, another cargo transshipment of crude oil appears to have taken place off the coast of Johor, near Singapore. The area has already become a site for transhipments of Iranian crude oil bound for China.
A European Union ban on oil shipments from Moscow and on the provision of insurance and other shipping services will come into effect later this year, putting pressure on Russia to identify and test various ways to deliver its cargoes to buyers. to get.
–With the help of Salma El Wardany and Sherry Su.
Copyright 2022 Bloomberg.
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