Deepening Turkey tanker logjam snarls Russia oil sanctions

  • Oil and tanker markets are disrupted
  • Turkey says there is no question of taking insurance risk
  • Yellen says not to target oil from Kazakhstan
  • Ankara says most of the waiting ships are EU ships

ISTANBUL, Dec 9 (Reuters) – As the number of tankers waiting to exit the Black Sea through Turkish straits continued to rise on Friday, Turkey became a critical obstacle to a complex international plan to deprive Russia of wartime oil revenues.

Ankara has refused to repeal a new insurance inspection law enacted earlier this month, despite days of pressure from Western officials frustrated by the policy.

The Tribeca Shipping Agency said on Friday that 28 oil tankers are queuing up to depart the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits.

The G7 rich nations, the European Union and Australia have agreed to ban shipping service providers, such as insurers, unless Russian oil is sold at forced low prices, or exports aimed at depriving Moscow of wartime revenue.

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The Turkish Maritime Authority has announced that oil tankers without appropriate insurance letters will continue to be kept out of the water.

Western insurers said Turkey would not be able to provide the required documents if the oil cargoes it covered were found to have been sold at prices that exceeded the limit.

Turkish authorities said that if a vessel were to suffer an accident in violation of the embargo, the damage would likely be covered by the International Oil Spill Fund.

“We have no question of taking the risk that (this) insurance company will not fulfill its compensation responsibility,” it said, adding that Turkey was continuing negotiations with other countries and insurance companies.

Most of the ships waiting near the strait were EU vessels, with a large proportion of the oil destined for EU ports – a factor that has frustrated Ankara’s Western allies.

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The ship backlog is causing growing unrest in the oil and tanker markets. Millions of barrels of oil a day move south from Russian ports to the Mediterranean through Turkey’s Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits.

Kazakh oil

Most of the tankers waiting in the Bosphorus carry Kazakh oil, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday, and the US administration saw no reason to subject such shipments to Turkey’s new procedures.

She added that Washington has no reason to believe that Russia was involved in Turkey’s decision to block the shipping.

The European Commission said on Friday that the delay was unrelated to the price cap and that Turkey could continue to confirm insurance policies “as before”.

“We are therefore in contact with the Turkish authorities to seek an explanation and we are working to reverse the situation,” a spokesman told Reuters.

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Turkey has maintained good relations with Russia and Ukraine since Moscow invaded its neighbor in February. It played a key role in a United Nations-backed deal in July to free grain exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

Relations between NATO allies Ankara and Washington have been rocky at times, however, with Turkey last month urging the United States to stop supporting Syrian Kurdish forces.

The Biden administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on a prominent Turkish businessman, Sitki Ayan, and his network of entities, accused of facilitating oil sales and money laundering for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Reporting by Darren Butler, Can Cesar and Jonathan Soule in London; Writing by Noah Browning Editing by Himani Sarkar, Clarence Fernandes, Jonathan Spicer, Francis Carey

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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