A few days ago, it was reported that the Russian-affiliated oil tanker “Pegas” was detained by Greek authorities as part of the new EU sanctions against Russia. While news of vessels being detained by authorities is not uncommon, let’s take a closer look at Pegas’ story to understand how the approach to maritime risk has dramatically shifted in the last couple of years, especially since Russia decided to invade Ukraine.
Pegas is a 249-meter Aframax tanker operating under a Russian flag. Up until mid-2020, the vessel was sailing under a Liberian flag and its area of operation was mainly in the Americas. In July 2020, the vessel changed its identity – flag and name – to the current iterations. It also adopted a new shipping line between Singapore/Malaysia and the Hormuz Strait (Oman and the United Arab Emirates).
After its identity change, the tanker had a series of first-time visits (areas the vessel visited for the first time since at least 2012) and a few dark activity periods. In September 2021, Pegas arrived in Turkish waters and loitered there for over seven months. During its time in Turkish waters, the oil tanker conducted multiple ship-to-ship (STS) operations, but only one eight-day recorded port call in Marmara, Turkey in January 2022. From a security/behavioral point of view, the vessel was not considered high risk.
But the beneficial owner of the vessel was added to OFAC’s sanctions list in February 2022, after the United States decided to take action against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR) as “independent” states. Due to the OFAC list and the new sanctions on Russia that started rolling out soon after, almost overnight Pegas and its ownership company became an immediate regulatory risk for both commercial and border security organizations.
If we look at this case narrowly, solely through the lens of security, the Greek authorities did not have to detain Pegas, since it was not posing a border threat. But when considering compliance-based factors and data, the authorities had no option but to protect their nation from regulatory punishment and moral condemnation.
The Situation is Complex…
As the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues, sanctions and trade restrictions on Russian-affiliated vessels and entities continue to expand. These regulations have changed the maritime domain and shipping ecosystem, and added a whole new layer of both regulatory and moral considerations that must be considered when deciding who to do business with, and how to best protect your country from unwanted diplomatic incidents, backlash and negative press.
Mitigating maritime risk was never an easy task in a landscape lacking full visibility. With the bad actors adopting smarter solutions to conceal their illicit activities and a constantly changing regulatory environment, protecting your borders and business has gotten much more difficult. Possessing a 360-view of risk from compliance, security and safety perspectives is crucial for making smarter business and national security decisions.
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