Camouflage, deceive, hide and collect. Russian oil supplies have become increasingly opaque since European buyers began avoiding them after the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The news service “Bloomberg” has tracked ship data and claims to have identified a new transhipment point for Russian oil: Egypt. Operated by Egypt’s Western Desert Operating Petroleum Co., the El Hamra oil terminal has six storage tanks capable of holding 1.5 million barrels of crude oil and a single buoy dock for loading and unloading. The terminal was built to handle crude oil produced in Egypt’s western desert, allowing for the possibility of blending the Russian barrels with the local quantities. Observing this terminal, the journalists made a discovery:
A few hours after the first tanker – the Crested – left El Hamra, another tanker, the Chris, arrived. The ship had been at the terminal for several days but left the berth to allow Crested to dock, tracking data shows.
When Chris finally left El Hamra on July 28, her cargo tanks were almost full, according to tracking data. The ship is now moored at the Ras Shukheir oil terminal on Egypt’s Red Sea coast. This terminal also offers the possibility of mixing Russian crude oil with Egyptian barrels.
Egypt is not a new route for Moscow. The country is already used by Russia for the transit of heating oil. It is unclear if El Hamra is a one-off operation or if the port will be used more frequently for Russian oil flows in the future.
An EU ban on oil shipments from Moscow and on the provision of insurance and other shipping services is due to come into force later this year, increasing pressure on Russia to find and test other ways to get its cargoes to buyers . The extra effort will eventually have to be paid for by all of us.