Spain has once again banned “ship-to-ship” transfers of alleged Russian oil after prohibiting the unloading of the Maersk Magellan in Tarragona in February.
The EU has not only prohibited the import of Russian crude oil by sea but also EU vessels from transporting Russian crude oil and petroleum products to third countries. However, Russia has circumvented the sanctions with “ship-to-ship” transfers on the high seas. This is done by transferring crude oil between tankers that are positioned close to each other and to ships with a different flag such as the Cameroonian “Nobel.”
The Nobel, is a tanker with the flag of Cameroon, built in 1997 and registered in Novorossiysk, a city in southwestern Russia. Moreover, it is one of the ships involved in these transfers. The diesel it contains is ready to be transferred to other ships that are ready to go with the engine running to circumvent the movement of waves and prevent them from drifting.
According to tracking, the gas oil from the Nobel goes to the Liberian tanker Sampatiki, which is responsible for transporting diesel from the Nobel to the Moroccan ports of Tanger Med in the north and Mohammedia further south for unloading.
The Maersk Magellan and the Elephant
The Spanish authorities had already prohibited the Maersk Magellan, with the flag of Singapore, from unloading a cargo of gasoil in the port of Tarragona in February.
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The Maersk Magellan did not have any known historical ties to Russia. However, it received a load from a third oil tanker, the Elephant, with the Vietnamese flag, during an STS transfer near the coast of Ceuta. After inspection, the Spanish authorities concluded that the Elephant’s cargo originally came from the tanks of the Nobel, as determined from the provided AIS data.
The Spanish authorities do not claim that the cargo came from a Russian refinery as Benito Núñez asserts. However, the AIS register of the Nobel shows that the ship docked in December in the Russian waters of the northeastern Black Sea before heading to the Mediterranean and meeting the Elephant in the waters off Ceuta.