The “shadow fleet” (or alternatively “dark fleet”) phenomenon has drawn a great deal of attention from the mainstream media since the outbreak of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it will be valuable to go deeper on this subject.
“‘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™ insights conclusively demonstrate that it will be more actionable and efficient for organizations to focus on the risky gray and dark fleets. This new conceptual framework will empower organizations to better predict risk, so they can continue engaging in wet cargo trades, understand the supply and demand balance, and negotiate freight deals in a more informed fashion.”
Windward’s Maritime AI™ platform has identified a three-tiered system of vessels to paint a more accurate picture of Russian oil smuggling:
- 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 difficult to determine legality and sanctions compliance in many cases. 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.
Vortexa’s technology discovered that the gray fleet 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. The dark fleet increased by 21 percent. These volumes are attributed to Russian oil only.
This Windward and Vortexa joint report will shine a light on the different tanker fleets currently in use, explain how they are classified, offer proprietary and exclusive data on the trade flows of Russian oil, and supply insights to provide maritime organizations with a conceptual framework to clear business faster, while avoiding financial and reputational risk.
The report includes a breakdown of the top three dark and gray subclasses, to show how often oil/chemical tankers, crude oil tankers, and oil product tankers are used by these fleets, respectively.
Perhaps the best news is that 82 percent of vessels are from the cleared fleet, meaning that with the right artificial intelligence (AI) technology, global trade can be easily enabled. The report explains which flags to be on the lookout for and offers a detailed breakdown of the origins and destinations of smuggled Russian oil, by country.