Shadow fleet oil tanker found run aground near Singapore

Ship poses environmental risks with its transponder falsifying data

Shadow fleet oil tanker found run aground near Singapore

Insurance News

By Jonalyn Cueto

A shadow fleet oil tanker ran aground near Singapore, posing serious safety and environmental risks, according to a Bloomberg report. It had previously falsified its location to avoid detection on digital ship-tracking systems.

According to a spokesman for the Indonesian navy, the 23-year-old oil carrier sailing under the flag of Cameroon, Liberty, ran aground on Dec. 3. The spokesman said that an investigation is underway.

Satellite research from Inc. and intelligence company Kpler said the tanker was carrying cargo of oil from Venezuela, and back in October, it was spoofing, making it appear on the digital tracking systems off the coast of west Africa when in reality it was collecting a cargo from the Latin American country.

The grounding near Singapore is another incident involving a tanker from a “dark fleet” of vessels branded as a “grave concern” to global shipping by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Singapore’s key role as a key transit point makes it particularly exposed to the risks from such ships. The dangers posed by the emergence of the dark fleet were made known this year with the explosion of the Pablo near Malaysia. The ship also had difficult-to-trace ownership and insurance. As a result, its burning wreckage sat for months off of the country’s coastline.

Hard-to-trace fleet of tankers

News of a fleet of shadow vessels came about following sanctions on the oil exports of Venezuela, Iran, and Russia. The shadow fleet often sails without industry-standard safety certifications and insurance, and often has opaque ownership structures. While they help transport oil to buyers, they raise environmental concerns.

The IMO publishes rules for the industry, including recommendations that tankers do not turn off or falsify their Automatic Identification System transponders. However, it is up to the governments to impose laws that ban the practice, said the report.

Cameroon’s flag is the only one with the designation of “very high risk” on a black list published by the Paris Memorandum on Port State Control, which oversees ship inspections and promotes safety. A firm called Skyward Management Corp., with an Kazakhstan address, is listed as the technical manager of Liberty. However, a call to the phone number for Skyward said the number was locked, and an email to the firm was not returned, the Bloomberg report said.

Liberty’s insurer against risks including collisions and spills is not clear. The tanker receives classification services from a firm called Mediterranean Shipping Register. MSR was near the bottom of a performance table of so-called Recognized Organizations published by the Paris MOU in June.

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