At least three Russian oil tankers “got dark” near the Azores during the last 10 days, Bloomberg reports.
Interruption of a ship’s tracking signal is marked by the US Treasury Department as a tactic used to circumvent sanctions.
Daily dark activity from Russian tankers has been “shot up” since the invasion of Ukraine, data show.
Several Russian oil tankers have disappeared from tracking systems near Portugal’s Azores in the last 10 days. Bloomberg reported Wednesday.
Shutting down a vessel’s tracking signal – also known as “going dark” or “dark activity” – has been marked by the US Treasury Department as one of several practices used to circumvent sanctions in the maritime industry. By disabling its location data, a ship can hide its final destination or hide other details about a ship’s movements.
The nine Azores islands in the Atlantic Ocean are part of Portugal, about 1,000 miles away from the European mainland. The EU ban on Russian oil will not enter into force until December, leaving large oil companies such as Shell and BP largely self-regulation with “moral sanctions”, as Insider has previously reported.
Although it is unclear exactly why the tankers went dark, the tactic could be used to avoid a public setback for trade with Russia – even if the transaction itself is legal. In addition, tankers containing Russian oil could transfer cargo to non-Russian ships, which f cautious buyers try to avoid any affiliation with Moscow.
Dark activity from Russia-affiliated oil tankers has tripled since the invasion of Ukraine, according to data from Windward AIa maritime risk advice.
Before the Ukraine war, Russian crude oil tankers had an average of about 1 dark activity per week, the Windward data show. Between February 24 and May 24, “the weekly average rose” to about 10, the report said.
Superyachts linked to Russian oligarchs have also disappeared from tracking systems in recent months. In late May, a $ 150 million Russian gas magnate superyacht reappeared near the Canary Islands – two weeks after it stopped transmitting its tracking signals.
All ships of 300 gross tonnage or more sailing on international voyages must install tracking technology, commonly referred to as an automatic identification system, according to the International Maritime Organization website.
Certain classes of vessels sailing on international voyages are required by international conventions to transmit their AIS position signal at all times.
“The only reason you want to turn off your AIS transponder is if you do not want to be found,” John Lusk, COO of data analytics firm Spire, told Insider earlier.
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