“The involvement of the gray and dark fleets with Russian cargo is quite evident following the invasion of Ukraine,” said Ioannis Papadimitriou, Senior Freight Analyst at Vortexa. “According to our data, the gray fleet has carried around 2.6 million barrels per day (M-BPD) each month post-invasion, which translates to a 68 percent increase when compared to pre-invasion levels. Similarly, the same comparison for the dark fleet is estimated at a smaller, but nevertheless considerable, 21 percent.”
These are just some of the important statistics contained in the joint report we authored with Vortexa on Russia’s “shadow fleet.” Before we look at the monetary value, etc., let’s ensure we agree on the terms being discussed…
Understanding the Terminology
“‘Shadow fleet’ has become a buzzword — widely used by the media and within the maritime industry, but poorly defined and ambiguous,” said Ami Daniel, Windward Co-Founder, and CEO.
Windward’s Maritime AI™ platform has identified a three-tiered system of vessels to paint a more accurate picture of Russian oil smuggling, as detailed in our previous blog post in this series:
Cleared fleet – tankers not exhibiting any suspicious conduct, such as flag hopping or irregular ownership structure. It is important to be able to quickly identify these vessels, so that maritime organizations are not paralyzed by false positives and indecision that will further hamper global trade.
Gray fleet – a completely new phenomenon evolving from the Russia war. Overseas companies have been quickly established following the outbreak of the war, to obscure vessel origins and ownership, and to appear law-abiding/non-sanctioned. This fleet is described as “gray” because it is often difficult to determine legality and sanctions compliance. A significant number of these vessels also switch flags (“flag hopping”) frequently. Windward has identified over 900 gray vessels around the world.
Dark fleet – this fleet often utilizes “dark activities” (the intentional disabling of the automatic identification system) to move wet cargo, along with other deceptive shipping practices (DSPs), such as ID and location tampering. Windward has identified approximately 1,100 dark fleet vessels.
The gray and dark fleets are both composed of vessels that pose a legitimate risk due to often hard-to-detect activities related to attempts to smuggle wet cargo from Russia. This sets up a cleared vs. risky dynamic for maritime organizations.
A Closer Look…
Barrels per Day (BPD) Moved Using the Dark and Gray Fleets
The global numbers of barrels per day that are moved using the gray fleet essentially show no change in the past year. But the picture changes when we drill down into the amount of Russian oil.
Looking at the numbers in the context of Russian oil, there is a 68 percent increase in the monthly average of Russian barrels per day (BPD) carried by the gray fleet after the war. There was a big increase in crude oil prices after the war began, with a peak in May 2022 (this correlates to the peak shown in this graph).
Similar to the gray fleet, the global oil carried by the dark fleet did not change much in the past year, but when looked at in the context of Russian oil, there is a clear trend – a 22 percent increase in the monthly average of BPD carried by the dark fleet after the war.
The dark fleet is practically unchanged by the war, indicating that the gray fleet took most of the load.
The total amount of crude and oil products carried by both the dark and gray fleets since the war began is +60 million BPD. With an annual average price of $58 USD per barrel of crude oil in 2022, the crude oil carried by these fleets is approximately worth more than 2 billion USD.
This blog post is based on the comprehensive report that Windward recently co-wrote with Vortexa. Windward and Vortexa established the industry’s first data-sharing agreement for maritime cargo flow and risk factors. This has led to greater visibility into compliance and risk across the global tanker fleet.
Ensure your organization stays compliant with all of the latest insights from our report:
- Oil trade flow trends
- Destinations for Russian oil from dark and gray fleets
- Top five origin ports for Russian oil from dark and gray fleets