Skuld: Ship-to-ship transfers raise red flags

Written by Nick Blenkey
ship to ship transfer

mage released by U.S. in 2018 showed North Korean ship bearing false name making ship to ship transfer with Panama flagged vessel

Mutual insurer Skuld notes that cargo trackers have noticed increased ship-to-ship (STS) transfers at sea, most commonly off Malaysia, Africa and in the Caribbean, as sanctioned countries such as Iran and Venezuela have reportedly increased their exports of oil.

Skuld senior claims executive, lawyer Elise Dale Sørheim warns that vessels involved in STS transfers risk unwittingly facilitating unlawful exports, and facing legal repercussions such as seizure of assets and exclusion from the U.S. financial system.

STS transfers are the transfers of crude oil, petroleum products, liquid bulk chemicals and liquefied gas between tankers while at sea, without the vessel having to call at a port or other facility. Many STS transfers are legitimate; however, suspicious circumstances such as operations at night and in high-risk areas, anchoring or drifting near sanctioned countries, and missing AIS data should raise immediate concern.

Skuld says that it is paramount that its members are aware of the serious consequences of breaching sanctions, which maymay trigger wide-ranging repercussions from authorities and counterparties, jeopardize insurance cover, and expose the party in breach to acute financial and reputational difficulties. To avoid this, due diligence before, during and after STS operations is paramount.

That due diligence involves tip-toeing through a minefield that includes such things a fraudulent cargo certificates of origin and vessels use identity theft to evade sanctions, for instance through using false AIS transmissions or setting up fictitious vessel registrations with IMO numbers of non-existent vessels.

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