The International Group of Protection and Indemnity Clubs (IGP&I) has come under fire from Ukrainian officials for failing to dissuade its members from insuring the transport of Russian oil.
As reported in an exclusive in The Guardian, a letter sent from Ukraine’s National Agency for Corruption Prevention in August to the body - whose members insure 90% of the world’s ocean-faring tonnage – asked for “consideration” in the IGP&I’s advice to members of a then-recent listing of Greek shipping companies on Ukraine’s database of “international sponsors of war”.
Five major Greek shipping firms on the database were spotlighted by the Ukrainian government which claimed in its letter that in spring alone, the firms had transported 19 million tons of Russian oil worth $16 billion – a third of all the country’s oil exports over that period and “equal to the cost of launching 2,350 Kalibr cruise missiles”.
The Guardian noted that the latest figures “suggest the total value of oil transported by the Greek shippers now stands at $32 billion.”
The IGP&I responded nine days later to the agency. In a letter, seen by The Guardian, Paul Jennings, chair of the IGP&I, offered “sympathy” over Ukraine’s plight but said Greek shippers were acting lawfully.
“To the best of our knowledge, the ship-owning companies you have mentioned in your letter are engaged in trade that has, to-date, remained lawful under European Union, UK and US law,” Jennings wrote.
“Specifically, under the sixth EU sanctions package there are exemptions to the prohibitions so as to permit some Russian oil cargoes to be transported into the EU and there is also no general prohibition on the transport of Russian oil cargoes to third countries.”
Officials in Kyiv have contrasted this response to a similar request from the Ukrainian agency to the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), which did lead to action.
In a letter on August 31 to the agency, Phil Cotter, the head of the data and analytics division at the LSEG, offered “support for the Ukrainian people through this difficult time” and confirmed that “the World-Check database does cover the Ukraine national agency on corruption prevention [by flagging] ‘international sponsors of war’ entity names”.
This response saw each of the Greek shipping companies transporting Russian oil being tagged by the LSEG with a notice on their database that they are on the Ukrainian “international sponsors of war” register and are allegedly “financing terrorism”.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that a letter dated September 1 to the IGP&I shows the Ukrainian government agency made a further appeal to the insurers’ body to take responsibility for avoiding the financing of the Kremlin’s invasion.
Oleksandr Novikov, the head of the agency, wrote: “We do not dispute the legality of their actions and their compliance with the current international sanctions regime. Otherwise, the carriers in question would have been placed on the sanctions list right away (so far they are in the International Sponsors of War category, which is not the same).
“Yet, we believe that IGP&I Clubs do have a say in the matter.”
Novikov asked the IGP&I Clubs to send “a message discouraging the members from doing business with Russians or shipping Russian oil”, or otherwise to at least follow a precedent set in 2020 when it had issued a circular advising about the increasing sanctions pressure faced by companies cooperating with the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipe.
Jennings reportedly replied that it was likely such a circular would be issued in the future but that discussions over watering down an EU prohibition on the export of Russian oil would probably keep the trade legal.
The Guardian noted that “a subsequent circular issued by the IGP&I Clubs on October 11, five months after the relevant EU sanctions came into force, advised members there was an “extended wind-down period for insurance and reinsurance relating to the transport of Russian products … until February 5, 2023”.”
Officials in the Ukrainian government said that while the LSEG had “found a way to help”, it appeared that the IGP&I Clubs had been “looking for a reason to stay apart” and that its advice would merely enable further transports of oil.
The Guardian highlighted that Novikov said: “Greek shipowners are the first to blame for undermining economic sanctions by moving Russian oil and profiting from the shipment, but they cannot be the only ones worthy of blame.
“The companies – some of them non-profits that classify, register, and insure ships – as well as other actors who appear reluctant to take action, deserve blame too.
“It is very disappointing when the debate on transportation is reframed as one of legality. It is not just about hard-law regulations and sanctions any more; there is a need for a great global unity and there is a lot that can be done by private actors, not just governments.”