UK ban covers Russian vessels but Seatribute is registered in Malta and ExxonMobil denies it is carrying Russian oil
A supertanker carrying crude oil that sailed from a Russian port was due to dock in Southampton on Friday with cargo destined for an ExxonMobil refinery.
The Seatribute is one of 148 tankers carrying oil and gas that have left Russian ports since Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine began 14 days ago, according to data on shipping movements gathered by Greenpeace.
The marine tracking data reveals that 69 of the tankers that have sailed from Russian ports are on their way to Europe.
Grant Shapps has said Russian vessels will be banned from UK ports in an effort to ensure the Kremlin is not funding its war effort with sales of oil and gas in the UK.
But the transport secretary’s ban covers vessels owned, controlled, operated or chartered by anyone connected with Russia and any vessel flying the Russian flag or registered in Russia.
The Seatribute is registered in Malta. It left the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk at 01.27 on 23 February, according to maritime data. It was due to dock at Southampton on Friday afternoon.
Greenpeace is tracking supertankers carrying fossil fuels that have left Russia since the war began, using shipping data to monitor their movements.
ExxonMobil, which owns the refinery in Fawley where the oil on Seatribute is destined to go, denied it was Russian oil. The company said the oil was from Kazakhstan, and had been transported via the Caspian pipeline.
The pipeline transports the bulk of Kazakhstan’s oil exports through southern Russia to the oil terminal at Novorossiysk. But about 10% of the oil that passes through the pipeline comes from oilfields in the Russian sector of the Caspian, which is blended with the Kazakh crude. The pipeline is part-owned by Russia.
ExxonMobil said in a statement: “No ExxonMobil equity crude that is transported via the Caspian pipeline en route to the US or Europe is from Russia. The Caspian pipeline delivers oil and gas from Kazakhstan and is not subject to sanctions at this time.”
Several tankers have left Russian oil and gas ports for the UK since 24 February, according to the Greenpeace tracker. Some have been redirected, but others appear to still be on the way to Britain.
Last Friday – just days after Shapps announced a ban on Russian oil and gas tankers docking in UK ports – dockers refused to unload a tanker of Russian gas due to arrive at a Thames estuary port. Shapps’s veto contains a loophole: it does not cover the origin of the cargo, and only applies to Russian-owned, or Russian-flagged ships.
Rosie Rogers, the head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said: “Our dependence on oil and gas is still fuelling Putin’s war. If ministers are serious about putting a stop to that, then we need to see firmer action on blocking fossil fuel imports from Russia. We hope our tracker will be a useful tool to anyone who wants to monitor where Putin’s oil and gas are turning up.”
The UK relies on Russia for 5% of its gas imports and 8% of oil imports. Earlier this week the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, pledged to phase out the import of Russian oil by the end of the year.
Shell had to apologise last week for exploiting the conflict to buy Russian crude oil last weekend at a discounted price.
A spokesperson for Associated British Ports said: “Following the government’s legislation barring Russian vessels from UK ports, we are working closely with colleagues in the Department for Transport and other government agencies to ensure that all vessels entering our ports are fully compliant with this law.”
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