Spain is still switching off vast amounts of Russia oil

Just a few kilometres off the coast of Spain, massive amounts of Russian oil are still being transferred between ships.

Weeks after local officials there wrote to local businesses to inform them that assisting the activity risks violating sanctions, the cargo switching has taken place.

According to Vortexa and ship tracking information collated by Bloomberg, four Very Large Crude Carriers, or VLCCs, are currently anchored off Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in north Africa. They can each carry roughly 8 million barrels of oil.

One, the Veronica, has already taken oil from a third tanker while receiving cargo transfers from two smaller ones. One cargo was just delivered to a second ship, the Anshun II, by a smaller ship. The two other people have not yet begun.

Early in February, Spanish officials wrote to local shipping service providers to remind them that, even in international seas, it was illegal to provide fenders for ship-to-ship transfers involving Russian oil or the potential for Russian oil.

According to a spokeswoman, the General Directorate of the Merchant Navy has no authority to regulate activity that occurs in international seas and is not aware that Spanish companies are providing fenders for the practice.

Companies from the European Union are prohibited from offering a range of services for the transportation of crude oil unless the cargo is bought at or below a Group of Seven price cap of $60 per barrel. Whether or not that applies to the oil being swapped in Ceuta is unknown.

Transfers from ship to ship have grown in significance as a logistical component of bringing Russian oil to market. According to Vortexa, around a third of Urals exports were swapped at sea last month.

Since December, when the EU prohibited practically all seaborne imports and joined the Group of Seven in setting a price cap, Ceuta and Kalamata, a few miles off the south coast of Greece, have been the focal sites of Russian oil swapping.

According to information gathered by Bloomberg, about 30 million barrels of Russian Urals have been transferred between tankers so far this year. Around 43% of these activities take place in Ceuta, with the majority occurring in Kalamata, Greece. After that, the shipment was shipped to Asia.

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